So, then, we have arrived at a null conclusion. By using standardized testing to analyze metacognitive teaching, we cannot examine its efficacy. If, however, we conclude that standardized testing is objectively the best way to examine the efficacy of teaching methods, then there is no question that traditional, boring methods of teaching are the most effective.
Since we cannot make this conclusion, however, we must search for more effective ways to determine efficacy in teaching. One such way, used in 2016 by scientists in Australia, was to use EEG (Electroencephalogram) technology to examine brain activity while exposed to different methods. The theory is that increased brain activity will mean a higher rate of learning, since more processing and storage is happening. A major finding was that newer techniques of learning do actually help, particularly in the group setting.
The teacher at Cavendish Road High was using a technique known as cooperative learning – encouraging student discussion in small groups.
Preliminary scientific results suggest it is working, and the students agree.
“I like to be doing stuff physically and doing it with other people as well in a group,” said student Jack Morris.
Ms Morgan said group discussion does not work for all subjects, but thinks it is a good idea for science.
“I think you get a lot more input from other people and you can generate more ideas,” she said.
Words of praise aside, the school’s principal Corinne McMillan said teachers are prepared to also accept negative feedback as part of the process.
“I guess our teachers are very used to a feedback culture,” Ms McMillan said.
This “group discussion” technique is being implemented everywhere, and is one example of how metacognition works in the classroom. The idea is that, by discussing with other students and essentially sharing your knowledge, one is effectively teaching themself in parallel. In a recent interview with a teacher at Judge Memorial Catholic High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, who has received awards including “most inspirational” and “best teacher” in past years from the administration, spoke to this idea of teaching by discussion. He proposes, though it would be the best way to learn in an ideal world, it may not be probable in our modern society, at least in math class. When asked what was the best way to teach, he said “I’m old school, I think the best way of teaching is repetition. Paying attention in class and practicing is, in my opinion, the best way for me to teach. My way may not be the best way [quantitatively], but it is the best way for me to teach. You’ve seen those inquiry based classes that ‘make you think,’ but in math, how can I make you think about derivatives? Derivatives are not going to develop inside you, the knowledge needs to come from practice.” This is the strongest criticism of metacognition: complex mathematical concepts do not “develop inside you.”
We are a feedback culture, and as such, understanding each other and considering other points of view are important, but the underlying question, of course, is whether we can differentiate points of view in a topic with one fundamental method of solvency. If the answer is no, then we cannot open up a calculus class to discussion. If the answer is yes, then the structure of mathematics classes would have to change entirely to implement this new methodology. Regardless of what the objectively correct answer is, we have science that suggests that there is a link between communication among students learning the same subjects and improvement in those students’ learning. This is the core principle of metacognition, and it is by far the most widely used technique in modern learning. Lastly, it is the most compelling evidence we have that modern learning techniques may be better than traditional, repetitive, and boring techniques.
Despite the repetition being favored by teachers such as the one mentioned from Judge Memorial, it seems that the reason these techniques are favored is simply because of how society encourages these techniques to be used. Again prompted by a similar question, our Judge Memorial teacher’s ideal world looked like “students being eager to learn. Students would dare to ask questions. I like when students ask questions, and another student says “hey, I know that question!’” The problem is, the only way to encourage students to chase after knowledge is to eliminate that after which they are chasing now. The “points” system is corrupting the will to learn and instituting a shift towards the traditional learning techniques of repetition. In this way, the objectively best way to teach, now established by both science and personal satisfaction, would be the students wanting to learn, and therefore accepting, and more importantly sharing, the knowledge that they are given. In order for this to be a legitimate claim, however, we must ask if it is possible in the first place.