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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Group work and metacognition : an exploratory case Nielsen, Wendy S.


This dissertation is about how learners bring metacognitive understandings of themselves as learners into a group learning context. It is about metacognitive knowledge, skills and behaviors and how these impact and are impacted by the learners' engagement with group problem-solving activity. For this study, group problem-solving activity is the important interface between the understandings an individual has about him or herself, including content knowledge, and the social environment of a collaborative problem-based activity system, such as is common use in science classrooms. The process of using metacognition in a group setting is how collective knowledge is built, and this study uses an activity theory framework to explore interactions within the groups that involve metacognitive knowledge, skills and behaviors during group problem-solving activity. For this study, high school biology students who were studying invertebrate biology as part of their Grade 11 Biology course attended a field trip visit to the Vancouver Aquarium, where they reviewed the major phyla of the intertidal zone. In-class follow-up activities extended the students' opportunities to engage with the general topic of ecology as it applies to intertidal marine biology. Problem-solving activities were the focal point of the activity system as conceived through the theoretical framework for the study. Data gathering included paper records and digital video and audio from the problemsolving activities and a video review activity where the groups watched themselves while they were solving problems. Subsequent focus group and individual interviews asked students to reflect on and elaborate the learning processes under way in their groups. The study gathered rich, descriptive data of how met cognitive knowledge, skills and behaviors are brought into the group context for learning. Results from the study indicate that open-ended problems offer opportunity for engaging metacognition, and when these are brought into the group context, rich possibilities for developing new understandings arise. In the group, others' thinking and learning processes become objects for one's own metacognition. This is a key finding of the study. Implications are discussed for teaching and learning science, including the development of problems that engage learners on multiple levels so as to engage students' metacognitive knowledge, skills and behaviors.

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