Metacognition and the teaching of writing

Ewing, James (2005). Metacognition and the teaching of writing. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis has examined the relationship between the two areas of metacognition and the teaching of writing. The implementation of the study was with BEd students following a teacher education course and the associated teaching and data collection for this study was within the first two years of that (four year) course.

The study examines the potential for determining the links between metacognition and the teaching of writing in the context of preparing student teachers to teaching writing in the primary school classroom. Five specific research questions were identified. The first examined the measurement of metacognitive thinking in relation to writing as there appeared to be very little documented information about how this might be addressed. The second question focussed on how the model of metacognition proposed by Nelson and Narens (1990) might be used in teaching about metacognitive regulation and the third question similarly addressed the use of the Hayes (1996) model of writing in the context of teaching student teachers about the theory of writing. This study gave particular (but not exclusive) attention to selected models of metacognition and of writing in the associated teaching and data collected sessions. The fourth question studied the development of student teachers' understanding of a metacognitive approach to their own writing as it might influence their understanding of teaching writing in the classroom. The final question set out to derive a possible composite theoretical model of metacognition and writing, with the expectation that this might be an additional support for future teaching in this area.

Experimental and control samples were established with the teaching about metacognition and writing being given to only the experimental sample. The nature of the teaching (covering theoretical concepts in a relatively new area of study, to students at the beginning of 4 year BEd course) suggested a structure which comprised several stages, generally alternating between teaching and data collection, and spread over a two year period. The focus of these stages was progressively from promoting student teachers' understanding of metacognition in relation to their own writing to identifying links with teaching writing in the classroom and finally to an enhancement of their teaching writing in the classroom. This resulted in a different format of presentation of the implementation, data collection, results analysis and discussion of findings than might customarily be found in higher degree work of this nature. Here, the key findings and discussion and are presented as they occurred throughout the study rather than as separate chapters following the description of the implementation of all the stages.

New features which were developed in this study were data collection material to measure metacognition in relation to teaching writing and the means of deriving a writer profile. The findings from the study indicated that the measures of metacognition and the writer profile had produced relevant and functional information. These suggested that the students' metacognitive knowledge had improved by the end of the study as had their awareness of metacognitive regulation. Additionally, it was shown that students held different metacognitive models of writing for themselves and for their pupils and that the model for their pupils changed over the two years of the study whereas that for themselves had remained unchanged. These findings were linked with the students developing awareness of models of expert and novice writers.

The potential for further development of metacognitive models of writing is recognised.

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