This study examined the task-related talk, reading comprehension, and metacognition of third-grade students over a 4 week period. A total of 219 students from eight classrooms participated. Classrooms were randomly assigned to the “reward” or the “strategy” condition. The reward condition encouraged cooperation through the use of team recognition based on individual performance on weekly quizzes. The strategy condition was designed to direct discussions toward substantive task content. Two groups from each classroom were observed prior to intervention and at the end of each week. The comprehension measure was comprised of four subtests: prediction, inference,main idea, and summarization. The metacognition measure assessed awareness of evaluation, planning, regulation, and conditional knowledge. Results indicated that the general structure of task-talk changed very little during the treatment phase of the study but that discussions in the strategy condition were focused more toward the facts, concepts, and strategies associated with their cooperative tasks. Students in this condition also performed significantly better on all comprehension subtests and one metacognition subtest. Discussion examines the (a) stability of the structure of peer-group talk, (b) efficacy of intentionally focusing peer-group discussions toward important lesson content, and (c) role such talk plays in learning.
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