Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning: What works and what does not

Developing metacognition and self-regulated learning (SRL) skills improves educational performance and attainment. There is evidence that interventions focused on these skills may help students from low SES backgrounds, but we are still learning how best to facilitate this development. A recent review by Daniel Muijs and Christian Bokhove of the University of Southampton in England synthesized studies to determine the programs and characteristics that have the greatest impact on metacognitive and SRL development.

Effective instruction included direct approaches via explicit instruction and modeling of metacognition and SRL practices by teachers, and indirect approaches such as the presence of a learning environment with relevant practice opportunities, dialogue, and scaffolded inquiry with student autonomy. Teachers felt more successful programs lasted more than two semesters, included leadership support, training and mentoring, and a receptive environment for the intervention.

Some practices appeared to have more of an impact than others. Intrinsic to the process of SRL and metacognition development is assessment. Using formative assessment and feedback strategies enable students to monitor their own progress and make changes as necessary, creating a scaffolding approach effective in several meta-analyses. Interventions embedded within subject content were more successful, supporting the theory that SRL and metacognition are highly specialized, and the relevant skills do not necessarily transfer from one subject area to another.

Practices that one might assume would lead to strong SRL, including planning, self-checking, and making adjustments, were just moderately correlated with attainment, while recordkeeping and goal setting were weakly related. Similarly, Muijs & Bokhove found mixed conclusions about group interventions. While small group interventions were more effective than one-on-one or large group interventions, other analyses found minimal or slightly negative effects of group work and cooperative learning interventions.

Source: Muijs, D., & Bokhove, C. (2020). Metacognition and self-regulation: Evidence review. London, UK: Education Endowment Foundation.
Children’s prosocial behaviors also promote happiness

Cultivating prosocial behaviors is an important educational goal. A recent study published in Frontiers in Psychology examined whether prosocial behaviors were also rewarding for young children.

The participating children were given a sharing, an instrumental helping task, and an empathic helping task. Their prosocial behaviors and happiness levels during and after the tasks were coded and compared. The study was conducted using a Dutch cohort and a Chinese cohort of young children to examine whether cultural differences exist. In total, there were 122 Dutch toddlers of which 101 participated again one year later, and 91 Chinese preschoolers involved in the study. 

The following results were found consistent across both Chinese and Dutch children:

1.Compared with receiving treats, children became happier after sharing.

2.Children also became happier after performing instrumental helping behaviors.

3.Whether children were being thanked after they helped others did not change their happiness levels.

The authors concluded that prosocial behaviors were emotionally rewarding for Dutch and Chinese young children. They recommend further study to examine the effects across ages and contexts.

Source:Song, Y., Broekhuizen, M. L., & Dubas, J. S. (2020). Happy little benefactor: Prosocial behaviors promote happiness in young children from two cultures. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 1398. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01398.
High-dosage reading tutoring in public schools as an alternative to charter schools

Amid the heated policy debate on whether to lift the cap on the number of charter schools, people often cite charter schools’ more intensive tutoring and better academic performance to lobby for lifting the cap. A recent paper indicated that public schools with high-dosage after-school tutoring have the potential to be a politically neutral solution to increase student achievement without lifting the cap.

Researchers at Harvard University conducted a school-level randomized evaluation to examine the effects of high-dosage reading tutoring on New York City’s middle school students. Using matched-triple randomization procedures, 60 traditional New York City public schools were divided into a treatment group, a control group, and a ‘pure’ control group. During three years of the project, selected students in the treatment group attended one-to-four reading tutoring for 2.5 hours every day, while students in the control and the ‘pure’ control groups had neither tutoring nor other after-school services. Meanwhile, the New York City Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI), offered by the NYC Department of Education to support teacher efficacy, was offered to teachers from treatment and control groups but not the ‘pure’ control group. Therefore, the ‘pure’ control group provided a way to test the independent effect of MSQI. The study found that:

1.There a positive and significant effect on school attendance: attending the tutoring program increased attendance at school by 3 percentage points per year.

2.In terms of state testing results, there was a positive but insignificant effect on English language arts and no effect on math.

3.The authors also concluded that high-dosage tutoring increased African American students’ English language arts scores by 0.09 standard deviations per year.

Source:Fryer Jr, R. G., & Howard-Noveck, M. (2020). High-dosage tutoring and reading achievement: Evidence from New York City. Journal of Labor Economics, 38(2), 421-452.
Effects of MyTeachingPartner-Math/Science on teaching practice and child outcomes

A study published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness reports on the impact of the program MyTeachingPartner-Math/Science (MTP-M/S) on teaching practice and students’ math and science skills in pre-kindergarten.

MTP-M/S is a pre-k curriculum primarily composed of inquiry-based activities and supported by a high dosage of professional development for teachers before and during program implementation. For this study, 140 pre-k classrooms in the mid-western and southeastern U.S. were randomly assigned to the intervention or the business-as-usual condition. The MTP-M/S program was implemented in 33-week long units (twice a week for each subject) over 2 years. The results were as follows:

1.At the end of year 1, teachers in the treatment group had higher levels of mathematics and science teaching quality evaluated through video-taped observations, as compared to the control group.

2.No significant effects were found in children’s math and science outcomes at the end of the first year, but science and math skills improved at the end of the second year, with a mean effect size of +0.22 for science and +0.16 for math.

Findings of the second year could be potentially inflated and should be read with caution because of a high level of teacher and student attrition.

Source:Whittaker, J. V., Kinzie, M. B., Vitiello, V., DeCoster, J., Mulcahy, C., & Barton, E. A. (2020). Impacts of an early childhood mathematics and science intervention on teaching practices and child outcomes. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 13(2), 177-212.
Children's Self-protection Cognition and Children Injury

In a survey published in Youth Studies, a total of 24 schools from six eastern, central, and western provinces (Guangdong, Shandong, Shanxi, Hunan, Chongqing, and Sichuan) were selected through a multi-stage sampling method, and 2,733 data samples were obtained. On this basis, the researchers set each core explanatory variable at macro, medium, and micro levels (all of which have been manipulated) so as to construct a regression model, and using whether the child has encountered injury or infringement in the past year and the cumulative injury types as the dependent variables. The results are as follows:

1. The baseline regression results show that in terms of whether children have encountered any injuries, the probability decreases by 0.033-0.041 for each score increase in children's values at the macro level. At the medium level, the likelihood of children has encountered any injuries decreases by 1 point for every increase in the cognitive score of protector responsibility. At the micro level, children's cognition of risk prevention, such as toys, safety seats, sports, and accidental injuries, does not significantly affect whether they were injured or not, indicating that the better children's self-cognition of safety awareness in daily life (self-cognition at the micro level), the less likely to be hurt.

2. The Heckman two-stage model was constructed to analyze the influence of child protection cognition on cumulative injury types of children. The results show that male children were more likely to be injured, and the injury types of children decreased by 0.027 units for every point increase in child rights cognition, while the remaining variables were not affected.

Based on this, researchers believe that it is necessary to strengthen and improve the legal construction of child protection, mobilize social forces to participate in the cause of children protection, and raise the awareness of guardians to protect children through the establishment and development of parent schools.

Source:Wei, K.N., Zhang, Y.L., Chen, J.H., Zhou, Y.Y.(2020)Children's self-protection cognition and children injury. Youth Studies, (01):48-59+95.