Developing 'metacognitive awareness' (understanding of our own learning processes) is an essential skill for a learner and underlines the need for them to be active participants in the learning process.

Author: 
Julie Tice

Even from the age of 6 or 7 children can be encouraged to think for themselves about their learning and what goes on in class. For teenagers, asking them what they think about what they are doing, asking for their opinions and involving them in some decisions about what goes on in class shows that you value their opinions and can help increase their motivation. Adult learners may also have quite clear ideas about what they want and will appreciate it if their views about their learning are taken into consideration. Here are some ideas for getting feedback from your learners.

Younger learners
At the end of the lesson show picture cards to illustrate different activities.

  • Did we learn new words today?
  • Did we play a game?
  • Did we sing a song?
  • Did we listen to a story? and so on.

Then get the children to say if they liked the lesson. Each child can be given three smiley faces on cards (one unhappy, one so-so, and one with a big smile) and they hold up the appropriate one to show if they liked the lesson or not. Alternatively they could draw a face in their notebook at the end of each lesson.

With slightly older children, get them to reflect on what they have done in their classes. You can give them a list of different activities that they may or may not have done in that lesson or in that block of work (for example, we listened to a story about a lion and a mouse, we learned the names of some animals, we played a game matching words and pictures of animals). After identifying which ones they did, they can then colour in smiley faces to show which they liked and which they didn't.

Teenagers and adults
Find out about how your students like to learn. Give them a questionnaire to find out what they think is most useful (reading, writing, speaking, listening, learning grammar, learning vocabulary), how they like to work (individually, in groups, in pairs) or activities they enjoy (using the coursebook, playing games, listening to tapes, and so on).

At the end of each lesson, get the students to complete a summary of the lesson under these headings:

  • What we did today
  • What I liked best
  • What I didn't like
  • What I want to do next

This can also be done at the end of a block of work.

Ask your students to keep a learning diary which you collect in on a regular basis. This can give you a very useful insight into each student's likes and needs. If the students are new to the idea of diary writing, give them questions to guide them in their writing initially.

  • What did you learn in this lesson?
  • Which part did you find most useful?
  • How confident do you feel in using what you learned?
  • What would you like to do more of?

If you are working with relatively small groups, individual counselling can be very valuable. Give the students some questions to think about before they meet with you. For example, which parts of the course have you found most useful? Which activities do you prefer? What do you feel you need to do most in order to improve your English?

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