Metacognition, Scaffolding and Affordances

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Tech Demonstration_Cog I

Pogrow, S. (1999). Systematically using powerful learning environments to accelerate the learning of disadvantaged students in grades 4-8. Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory2, 319-340. [Google Book] [PDF]

In his article Dr. Stanley Pogrow describes his development of the Higher Order Thinking Skills Project (HOTS) as a way of teaching thinking skills to students who fall in the Learning Disability and Title 1 (those who face financial and academic challengers) categories. This approach is meant to combat the decline in educational performance that begins to occur between the fourth and eight grades, eventually leading to students dropping out.

Pogrow posited that instead of there being a sociological cause for this, the problem is “much more systematic and cognitively based.” (Pogrow, 1999) His research confirmed this when he discovered that 75-85% of the Title 1 and Learning Disability students were actually high potential students who simply had metacognition deficits (i.e. didn’t understand understanding).

He identified 4 thinking skills that underlie all types of learning:

Thinking Skill Definition Operationalization
   Metacognition Consciously applying strategies to solve problems. Students were constantly asked what strategies they used to problem solve and how/why they could tell it did not work.
    Inference from
Figuring out unknown words and information from the surrounding information. Students were asked to identify the meaning of a word by guessing it’s meaning based on the sentence it was used in. They were also asked to describe what strategy they used to identify the meaning.






Generalizing ideas from one context to another.
Students were asked to make predictions about what certain words (used by the computer program) meant in different contexts. They were also asked about how a particular concept played across different contexts – in this case software programs.
Combining information from a variety of sources and identifying the key pieces of information needed to solve a problem. Students were asked to use information from a range of sources (each containing a different type of information) while answering questions.

The curriculum was then developed around the use of Oregon Trail (a popular adventure simulation at the time) as it not only provided a frame that would interest students, but it allowed them to exercise the above mentioned skills as they were asked to examine their gameplay choices (and the game itself) while they played. 

As Pogrow’s project employs Oregon Trail, we decided to use it as the activity for our tech demonstration as well.

Class Activity: Play Oregon Trail.


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