Eliciting Metacognitive Experiences and Reflection in a Year 11 Chemistry Classroom: An Activity Theory Perspective

Thomas, Gregory; McRobbie, Campbell
June 2013
Journal of Science Education & Technology;Jun2013, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p300
Academic Journal
Concerns regarding students' learning and reasoning in chemistry classrooms are well documented. Students' reasoning in chemistry should be characterized by conscious consideration of chemical phenomenon from laboratory work at macroscopic, molecular/sub-micro and symbolic levels. Further, students should develop metacognition in relation to such ways of reasoning about chemistry phenomena. Classroom change eliciting metacognitive experiences and metacognitive reflection is necessary to shift entrenched views of teaching and learning in students. In this study, Activity Theory is used as the framework for interpreting changes to the rules/customs and tools of the activity systems of two different classes of students taught by the same teacher, Frances, who was teaching chemical equilibrium to those classes in consecutive years. An interpretive methodology involving multiple data sources was employed. Frances explicitly changed her pedagogy in the second year to direct students attention to increasingly consider chemical phenomena at the molecular/sub-micro level. Additionally, she asked students not to use the textbook until toward the end of the equilibrium unit and sought to engage them in using their prior knowledge of chemistry to understand their observations from experiments. Frances' changed pedagogy elicited metacognitive experiences and reflection in students and challenged them to reconsider their metacognitive beliefs about learning chemistry and how it might be achieved. While teacher change is essential for science education reform, students are not passive players in change efforts and they need to be convinced of the viability of teacher pedagogical change in the context of their goals, intentions, and beliefs.


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