Benefits of a metacognitive approach to developing students’ ability to analyse source evidence
The aims of this action research project were to explore the difficulties experienced by students in analysing sources and to develop a metacognitive approach to supporting them in identifying and overcoming these difficulties.
Sara began by identifying students’ difficulties in evaluating sources, asking them to rate their levels of confidence in relation to different aspects of the task. In the early cycles of the intervention she encouraged students to respond to a metacognitive reflection sheet that guided them in thinking through the different elements involved in thinking historically and prompted them, where they identified gaps in what they had done, to make improvements to their written responses.
The latter cycles involved Sara in undertaking much more explicit modelling of a source-based task to illustrate how an historian might approach the process (‘thinking aloud’ as she tackled the task) and included a recall activity that encouraged students to review their knowledge of the topic concerned, and to address any obvious gaps in that before attempting to evaluate the source(s) presented in relation to particular questions. Students’ work and responses to this cycle of intervention were collected, indicating that a metacognitive approach did facilitate students’ historical thinking.