Education Quandary: At a parent-teacher evening our son's form teacher kept saying he used 'metacognition' in teaching. What was he talking about?

Hilary's advice

Hilary's advice

I don't think this is a query about vocabulary. I think it's a yelp of embarrassment and annoyance at being made to feel small and stupid at a parent-teacher conference. But, believe me, it's this teacher who is small and stupid.

Any teacher who cannot talk in jargon-free prose to parents is not up to one of the fundamentals of the job, and is probably poor at communicating with pupils as well. In addition, any teacher who clutches a single idea about teaching and parades it as if it were the answer to all things pedagogical is an idiot. Good teachers always keep up to speed with new ideas about teaching and learning, they incorporate the best ones into their practice, and monitor them to see how well they are working.

But they also understand that teaching is as much an art as a science, and that they will always need a whole toolbox of tricks to help every child in their classroom learn and grow.

For the record, metacognition means knowing the answer to things, and knowing how you know the answer. Pupils are helped to be aware of their thinking processes, and how they research, evaluate, analyse, select, synthesise and conclude. It's a useful approach to learning that builds confidence, and one that really helps pupils understand things properly, but it isn't the secret to the universe and this teacher is absurd to talk as if it is.

Readers' advice

Metacognition generally means that the teacher keeps at the forefront of the cognitive processes involved in learning and designs lessons that will help students to be aware of how they learn best.

Metacognition involves ''thinking about thinking''. For example, teachers show students how to question themselves as they read a text. (Why did this event happen? What might the character be thinking). This is using metacognition to help to understand the text.

In easier terms, it just means that the teacher will be using higher-order thinking skills and activities to help the students learn and achieve best.

Shannon Dipple, Dayton, Ohio, US

Your son's teacher was talking about an important idea in modern teaching, but he should have explained it properly and not just used the professional term. Metacognition means helping pupils to think about how they are thinking, and all the different techniques they can use to acquire and apply knowledge. Pupils who are taught in this way are much better equipped as learners than those who are simply taught traditional stuff.

Mike Winterbourne, Guildford

My last head always talked about "scaffolding" learners. It was her favourite term. We actually started calling her Mrs Scaffold behind her back. She had got hold of this term like a dog with a bone, and used it to everyone, all the time. I can't imagine what parents made of it. Some teachers hide their inadequacies behind important-sounding jargon and I suspect that this is what has happened here.

Ginny Clayton, Essex

Next Week's Quandary

We have objected to our daughter’s school showing Disney films during 'wet play'. The head has suggested setting up two rooms for the children, one showing films, the other with play activities. We think this is unacceptable and ridiculous. Children will always choose films if they are offered. What can we do?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor