Metacognitive Approach in a Developmental English Class

Developmental or remedial education is aimed at students who appear to be underprepared for college-level courses. English as a foreign language is a core subject in Japan, and recently, large numbers of Japanese university students are being placed in remedial courses. One reason for these students’ difficulties with learning English could be that they were unaware of what they were learning and did not reflect on their lessons, that is, that they showed weak metacognitive functioning. Metacognition is a process of thinking about how one thinks, and it helps learners become aware of their individual learning experiences; therefore, promoting students’ metacognition enhances their ability to reflect on their own learning. Self-reflection is a useful method for promoting students’ metacognition because it can enhance their comprehension of what they are capable of understanding and allow them to consider how to improve their weaknesses. Accordingly, in this study, self-reflective learning was employed in a developmental English class. Specifically, the students wrote a reflection paper during the last 15 minutes of each class; the reflection points were that day’s topic, what each student found difficult or did not understand, and each student’s newly gained knowledge and thoughts about the class. The instructor read the papers, commented if the paper was too short or the writing was not clear, and returned them to the students. Metacognition was measured before and after this practice, and the results revealed that students’ metacognition was enhanced. Some of the students came to realize what they did not understand, and writing reflections each time helped them to concentrate on the class.

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