So there’s some research on metacognition that I’ve been looking at recently. It’s been around for ages but it’s getting into the mainstream schools now. One of the big things there is the idea of thinking aloud, so explaining your thought processes as you’re doing something and the recent EEF guidance explains how important that think aloud process is both from a teacher explaining their thought processes and from a student explaining what they’re doing and why they’re doing it and trying to make that a more transparent process. ‘What you are going to do is you are going to take one of these and I’m going to give you one to do, okay, so we’re all doing a different one.
You can write your answer on a whiteboard or on a piece of paper or you can do it directly on Explain Everything; it’s entirely up to you and you’re doing exactly what we did with the mass ones and the volume ones. So you’re going to do yourself a little screencasting video. It really shouldn’t take long now you’ve done it before and I will let you get on and do that independently and then…’ Explain Everything, I particularly like because not only is it videoing a voice or videoing a person explaining something, you can actually just capture as you’re writing.
You can capture everything you’re writing, you can incorporate images so it’s also that what we call, ‘making written work, work harder’ so rather than just doing everything on a screen, you can take a photo of some handwritten work and explain what you’ve done and why you’ve done it. So that’s used particularly effectively for Chemistry calculations. I used to take in pages and pages of the calculations, you know tick, cross, underline twice. Yes, they’ve all got the right answer but I would have no idea whether they understood why they’d got the right answer or whether they just followed a method without thinking, or just copied the method off their mate.
So now what I would do is to take in a video so they only do one question and they explain to me their thought processes behind why they’ve decided to do certain things. That, to my mind, gives me a lot more assessment information about whether or not that child actually understands what they’re doing. What I find is that misconceptions come through much more readily there than they do if I just do it in a traditional way and that has allowed me to address those misconceptions earlier. ‘So Explain Everything is, like I say, really straightforward.
One of the things you can do is take images so you know I said you could write your answer on a whiteboard and the point is that what you want to do is explain why you’re doing the steps so it’s not just about doing the steps it’s about this is why I need to do moles divided by this or whatever like I did in my example. So the first thing you can do is just to take a picture. So yes, we want it to access the camera. So then we can talk about, just over this bit, and what happens is you press the record button…’
They do find it quite difficult to start with, particularly the older ones, they’re quite reticent about having a go. They really don’t like listening to their voice on record so that you have to sort of get over that barrier and they don’t quite see the value at the time because it is harder, they have to think harder and they don’t like doing that. They would much prefer not to think and follow a method and just hand it in. So trying to break away from that. So I think explaining to them why the research shows it’s useful, I find that that’s quite useful with an awful lot of things that I do with my classes.
I’ve certainly had students say to me six months after, ‘oh yeah, now I understand. I now realise I’ve watched that video again or I use that for my revision. Actually, I realised that I learned mechanisms in this way and now I know I need to make videos to explain them.’ So they are then choosing later on to do it for themselves but it can take a bit of time. So this is a different way to do sort of reflections on tests and exams. So traditionally it was just, you know, go and correct your test and, you know, write down, ‘I need to revise X more,’ which isn’t necessarily that helpful.
So now they would do a little video where they pick two or three questions where they didn’t do so well, take a little picture of the question and say, ‘In this question what I missed was this and what I needed to do is this,’ and again that insight you get into the way that they think gives you way more information as a teacher about what they understand and what they don’t understand. ‘Yours is good because you’ve got this idea of working out the concentrations to start with so you’ve got this grams per dm cubed to moles per dm cubed to deal with so that’s quite a nice thing to explain what you’re doing because people find that hard.’
Do exemplars, so make exemplars yourself so that you know that it will work for that objective and that you know how the bit of kit works or whatever videoing software you’ve decided to use. You can then give that to the children in advance and say, ‘Here’s one I’ve done,’ and then they’ve got a sense of what the the outcome should look like. Be clear on time. When I first did this with Year Seven, I got a 12 minute video on how an ice cube melts so I now give time limits because that was relatively tedious. So give clear time limits. Suggest that the students script it in advance so that they don’t just waffle.
So scripting and expect them not to like it to start with. Expect that barrier of, ‘oh, I don’t like listening to my own voice.’ ‘We’re using it to write out our thought process and then record how we went about doing an equation. I think it can be quite helpful, yes, because it gets you to think through your process and explain it how you would to another person.’
‘When you’re handing in homework that you’ve already done sometimes when you just get the work back and it just says a cross then you don’t really know how to improve whereas when they go through the entire video and they see every moment of your thought process, they can really understand where you went wrong and what needs to be improved.’