H.27: Transfer of Learning and Constructive Metacognition: A Taxonomy of Metacognition for Writing Studies
Reviewed by Clay Walker, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Chair: Gwen Gorzelsky, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
Speakers: Carol Hayes, The George Washington University, Washington, DC
Ed Jones, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ
Dana Driscoll, Oakland University, Rochester, MI
Gwen Gorzelsky, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO
For the second year in a row, Dana Driscoll, Gwen Gorzelsky, Carol Hayes, and Ed Jones presented the most recent findings from their Writing Transfer Project to a full room of conference attendees. The Writing Transfer Project consists of a mixed-methods longitudinal study of writing at multiple institutions of post-secondary education, including 48 sections distributed across three first-year writing courses, one second-year writing course, and one upper-division writing course. Driscoll, Gorzelsky, Hayes, and Jones coded 381 reflective writing samples and 36 interviews with 14,156 applications of 98 distinct codes. Using both qualitative and quantitative analysis, Driscoll, Gorzelsky, Hayes, and Jones found that students' metacognitive awareness, or their capacity to recognize and think about their own cognitive processes, played a statistically significant role in facilitating the transfer of students' writing knowledge beyond their composition courses (Gorzelsky et al., forthcoming).
The panel's presentation focused primarily on outlining their taxonomy of metacognition in order to foster a conversation about the Writing Transfer Project's implications for research, teaching, and writing program administration. Hayes opened the panel with an overview of the Writing Transfer Project and a brief review of scholarship on metacognition and transfer in order to argue that the panel's taxonomy of metacognition in writing may offer the field a way to operationalize metacognition. Jones discussed the group's research methods, noting that metacognition was one of four key factors found to be statistically significant for writing transfer. Finally, Driscoll and Gorzelsky walked the audience through the taxonomy with a discussion of the definition of key terms and representative examples from the Writing Transfer Project's data.
The taxonomy of metacognition includes seven categories, some of which may be demonstrated as either cognitive (thinking to complete a task) or metacognitive (critical reflection on that thinking and its efficacy or outcomes), while other items are inherently metacognitive. Further, the panel offered three levels for describing the depth of awareness: deep, middling, and shallow. Notably, writers who were improving "were twice as likely to engage in deep metacognition" although the panelists remarked that they generally did not find as many instances of deep metacognitive awareness as they had hoped. The taxonomy of metacognitive awareness consists of the following categories (see the attached handout for illustrations of each item on the taxonomy):
- Knowledge of Cognition
- Person: "Knowledge of oneself as a writer, including one's successful/unsuccessful use of genres, conventions, and rhetorical and writing process strategies"
- Task: "Understanding of affordances and constraints posed by a project and its circumstances"
- Strategy: "Knowledge of the range of approaches one might effectively use to complete a project"
- Regulation of Cognition
- Planning: "Identifying a problem, analyzing it, and choosing a strategy to address it"
- Monitoring: "Evaluating one's cognition and efforts toward a project"
- Control: "The choices one makes as the result of monitoring"
- Evaluation: "Assessing the quality of a completed project"
- Constructive Metacognition: "Reflection across writing tasks and contexts, using writing and rhetorical concepts to explain choices and evaluations and to construct a writerly identity"
Driscoll and Gorzelsky noted that the final item on the taxonomy, constructive metacognition, emerges from students' integration of other items on the taxonomy, stands as an "explicit form of metacognition that promotes positive shifts in their writerly identities," and may be prompted in writing courses. Following the panel's presentation, questions from the audience developed into conversation about the project and its implications for the field. Issues that were raised included questions about developing inter-rater reliability for such a massive qualitative analysis of writing samples, whether we can apply research on unconscious metacognition to our teaching practices, whether the data could be stratified to examine first year college generation transfer, and whether students' dispositions and motivation affect metacognitive awareness.
Gorzelsky, Gwen, Driscoll, Dana L., Paszek, Joe, Hayes, Carol, & Jones, Ed. (forthcoming). Metacognitive moves in learning to write: Results from the writing transfer project. In Chris Anson & Jessie L. Moore (Eds.), Critical transitions: Writing and the question of transfer. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press & The WAC Clearinghouse.