Research on the Problem
Researchers and theorists have sought the key behind getting students to learn for decades. For every theory placed on the table, there is another waiting to clear it off and replace it. This dichotomy can be challenging for teachers who are searching for the answers to help them reach their students especially when these students are asked to do mundane tasks like memorize. In addition, many teachers struggle to identify the root cause of their student’s struggles with material, and once pin pointed, they often find it difficult to address these causes.
What are the exact challenges the students are struggling with? In her research, Nancy Joseph, believes the answer to this question lies in a lack of metacognitive ability in the students. “Your ability to plan, monitor, and evaluate your performance reveals sophisticated cognitive activity.” (Joseph, 2006) If the students are not capable of reaching this level of cognitive ability, they will not be able to grow with the difficulty of the class material. Each student learns best in his or her own way, and by understanding this “learners are able to use their academic strengths to develop additional skills and understanding, moving toward greater intellectual maturity.” (Joseph, 2006) Students cannot develop critical thinking skills as it relates to content if they do not possess the skill to think critically at all.
The pathway to metacognitive ability begins with self-reflection. At the junior high level, students are unaware that the ability to be reflective is a skill that will carry them through life; not just in their current Language Arts Classroom (Joseph, 2006). Teachers are told almost daily about how important it is to make material relevant for the students and get them thinking about what it all means. Self-reflection skills can help the students to do this; however, teachers need to understand that they are responsible for teaching this skill as well as their content.
Language Arts classrooms, at the middle grade levels, are rife with material that most do not consider exciting or interesting. Grammar has become a four letter word, and memorizing key rules is important to using words correctly. The definition of grammar alone is confusing. It is defined as “the way language manipulates and combines words in order to form longer units of meaning.” (Tuan & Minh Doan, 2010) As authors Tuan and Doan (2010) noted, simply knowing these rules that govern the English language does not make it easy or motivating. Telling the students that they must memorize these grammar rules in order to write well does not work, and yet, lecture appears to be the format of instruction that most teachers rely upon.
Memorization requires motivation; however, it also requires an active learning participant. Sylvia Rockwell (2007) addresses this issue in her article Working Smarter, Not harder: Reaching the Tough to Teach. Most students feel...