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RESEARCH Planning and Problem Solving in Teacher Education Neely presents findings from an experimental study investigating the effects of training ...
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Planning and Problem Solving in Teacher Education

Neely presents findings from an experimental study investigating the effects of training in cognitive monitoring on preservice teacher lesson planning. Lesson plans and lesson implementation were found to be significantly more effective for prospective teachers trained in cognitive monitoring. Implications are discussed regarding the inclusion of problem solving training in teacher



Ann M.Neely

for instruction is a topic in virtually all teacher education programs. Teachers and student teachers alike are concerned as to how to organize and plan lessons (Joyce and Harootunian, 1964; I~cIntyre, Norris and Copenhaver, 1981). Few studies have been conducted to determine how preservice teachers can improve planning and then adapt that planning to problems they will face as inservice teachers. Research in the area of teacher planning began twenty years ago and has been primarily descriptive. Self-reports by teachers have often served as a main source of data (McCutcheon, 1980; McNair, 19778 1979; Morine andvallance, 1975; Peterson and Clark, 1978; Yinger, 1979; Zahorik, 1975). Other studies have analyzed written plans or interviews with teachers without addressing classroom performance (Joyce and



Harootunian, 1964; Morine-Dershimer, 1978-1979). In &dquo;think aloud&dquo; studies, teachers were asked to describe their own thinking as they planned (Clark and Yinger, 1979; ~®yce, 1981; Peterson, Marx, and Clark, 1978).

Simplifying and organizing the complexities of classroom instruction occur during teacher planning (Clark and Yinger, 1979). Teachers must balance behavioral objectives, learning activities and theories, special needs of individual students, and evaluation methods in a way to maximize teacher effectiveness and student learning. The teacher uses cognitive processes of decision-making to bring about this balance. McCutcheon (1980) asks the question: &dquo;How can we take advantage of the way teachers naturally seem to plan, yet enrich the planning to promote better schooling for all involved ?&dquo; (p. 23). There are many variations in the planning process that may affect subsequent classroom implementation of the plan. This study investigated the effects of training in cognitive monitoring (Flavell, 1976) on the planning and classroom implementation performance of preservice teachers. Rationale for

Neely is Lecturer in Education, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University.

Training in Cognitive Monitoring Flavell (1976) defines cognitive monitoring as a component of metacognition (knowledge about one’s own thinking). Skills of metacognition include &dquo;predicting the consequences of an action or event ... monitoring one’s ongoing activity ... and a variety of other behaviors for coordinating and controlling deliberate attempts to learn to solve problems&dquo; (Brown and DeLoache, 1978, pp. 14-15). Cognitive monitoring involves awareness and regulation of one’s thinking. Selfinterrogation is used to direct actions. Cognitive monitoring as a metacognitive skill has been used successfully in studies with children and adults. Training adults to expand metacognitive processes into self-interrogation provides the rationale for using cognitive monitoring / 29

training with preservice and inservice teachers (Meichenbaum and Cameron, 19749 Riley9 1981; Szykula and Hector, 1978). Brown and DeLoache (1978) support this rationale: We believe that many skills

currently being studied as skills of metacognition are transitional, i.e., they apply to all forms of problem-solving activity rather than being restricted to a certain process area. Self-interrogation concerning the current state of one’s own knowledge during problem-solving is an essential skill in a wide variety of situations, those of the laboratory, the school [italics added], or everyday life. (p. 61)

Cognitive monitoring training appears to be a particularly appropriate strategy to employ with novice teachers. Preservice teachers must be taught to form more elaborate mental images of lessons as they plan, and cognitive monitoring may aid them in developing greater awareness of the classroom and of themselves: &dquo;Clearly we can help teachers wonder why they plan what they do and thus add a dimension to their mental planning&dquo; (McCutcheon, 1980, p. 22). The development of a workable mental plan is generally a difficult task for preservice teachers. One intended outcome of field experiences is the development of an experiential background for future teachers based on actual classroom interactions. The technique of cognitive monitoring seems appropriate for stimulating preservice teachers to analyze previous field experiences while planning for subsequent teaching. Morine (1976) supports this idea by stating: We assume that teachers can learn from reflecting upon experience, and it seems possible that this type of learning could be related to teaching effectiveness. That is, teachers who reflect more on their teaching may learn more about teaching; by incorporating these deliberations into their planning activities, they may therefore improve their teaching more rapidly. (p. 4)


Study ® Subjects

varied because of differences in sizes of the schools used for field placements. Comparisons were made to determine if there were any differences among groups based upon factors of age of group members, sex of members, and member personality traits as measured by the Rokeach Dogmatism Scale (Rokeach, 1960). No significant differences were found on any of these characteristics. In order to reduce possible instructor bias, members of control and experimental groups received varied instructor assignments for the two quarters. Skills in lesson planning were assessed at the end of the study by a comparison of the written plans of the experimental and control group members. Lesson plans were evaluated as to how well the following aspects were planned: learner objectives, teaching procedures, lesson content and materials, evaluation of learning, and variety of instruction. At this point in the research, the group members exhibited no differences in abilities to write lesson plans.

Training in Cognitive Monitoring The training for the experimental group consisted of classroom lectures on cognitive monitoring and practice teaching experiences in elementary classrooms. This training was derived from a review of theoretical and empirical literature. Procedures for organizing the training were based on Meichenbaum’s (1975) sequence: orientation, modeling, and rehearsal. Each aspect of this organization is described in Figure 1.

Figure Organization


of Treatment in

Cognitive Monitoring

and Methods

This study examined the effects of cognitive monitoring instruction as a part of the traditional education of teachers. One assumption underlying the study was that McKibbin (1978-1979) is correct when he observes that &dquo;the most effective training methods ... get people to examine internal as well as external acts&dquo; (p. 80). Meichenbaum and Asarnow (1979) elaborate this idea by stating: The ability to predict or to estimate task difficulty, to self-interrogate, self-test, or monitor the use of a strategy, to adjust strategy to task demands, and to make use of implicit and explicit feedback must come to underlie the education of teachers. (p. 29)

Subjects and Design A sample of the total population of preservice teachers at a large southern university was used in the present study. Seventy-six undergraduates majoring in Early Childhood Education served as subjects. All subjects were enrolled in their first teaching methods course. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of eight teams to be placed in elementary schools for all field experiences. The experimental design employed in this study was a randomized pretest-posttest control group design. Subjects were assigned to control and experimental groups based on the random assignment of teams and classes. Four teams, a total of 42 students, served as the experimental group and received training in cognitive monitoring. The remaining 34 preservice teachers formed the control group. Group sizes 30 /

Orientation lectures provide members of the experimental group with a brief summary of the theory underlying cognitive monitoring. Vygotsky’s (1962) theory of language development was the focus of the first lecture. The lecture

explained that, even as adults, we revert to egocentric language (controlling actions with our own words) when faced with a challenging situation. A review of research in cognitive monitoring was presented. Studies using cognitive monitoring with children were briefly described. The major focus of the presentation was on the teacher’s use of cognitive monitoring. Manning (1984) identifies four areas where teachers might use the technique. She states that cognitive monitoring could be used while planning instruction, instructing and interacting with students, listening to students, and evaluating instruction. Members of the experimental group were taught to develop and use &dquo;probes to self in their teaching. Probes include self-questions, self-reinforcement, and goal setting. Subjects were encouraged to monitor their own thinking while performing teaching duties such as planning, instructing, listening, and evaluating in order to increase self-awareness. Subjects kept a log recording self-probes, but otherwise the field program



Cognitive monitoring was specifically applied to the planning of lessons. Subjects were provided with examples of self-questions useful for the planning phase of teaching (see Figure 2). Subjects were then asked to record, in their plans, the self-questions and probes that would be used during their teaching. These questions and probes tended to focus on teacher behavior rather than student behavior.

Figure 2 Self-questions for Planning


Subjects were told to plan to have the &dquo;motivation for writing&dquo; portion of the lesson observed by a college supervisor. Evaluation of Plans and Classroom Implementation Selected portions of the Georgia Teacher Performance Assessment Instrunzents (TPAI) (Capie, Ellett, Okey, and Johnson, 1978) were used to evaluate the lesson plans and to observe lesson implementation. The instrument originally was developed to assess beginning teachers based on competencies identified by over 4,000 professional educators as &dquo;essential&dquo; or &dquo;highly desirable&dquo; for all teachers. The TPAI was selected as the instrument used to measure effectiveness of written lesson plans and lesson implementation only In no way did the TPAI purport to evaluate the treatment procedures developed in this study Rather, the T’PAl was selected as an observation instrument to determine the effectiveness of teaching behaviors that were, perhaps, modified by the treatment. Competencies measured by the TPAI in this study included observations of instructional techniques, materials and media, and management skills. Reliability of ratings by the five observers participating in this study were at or above .9~ in two videotaped lesson observations. To establish reliability in evaluating written plans, the researcher and a data collector-trainer employed by the State of Georgia evaluated a portion of the lesson plans using Competency I. A reliability coefficient of .91 was estimated for the measurement of the five indicators. Observers did not know which subjects comprised the control and the experimental groups. An attempt was made to have each observer rate subjects from both groups. Lesson plans were turned in and coded such that the-researcher did not know which plans were from subjects of the control or



Limitations of the Study Each of the 76 subjects

was observed only once while minute lesson. This may limit the reliability of findings. In addition, the Georgia TPAI was not designed to measure effects of the training in cognitive monitoring on written plans or classroom implementation. However, as noted earlier, this may be considered as a strength since the findings are not treatment specific.





All 76 subjects were required to teach a thirty minute lesson in creative writing during the final field experience prior to student teaching. The area of creative writing was selected because of the lack of curriculum materials with preplanned lessons available to the subjects (Clark, 1983~.

The research hypothesis was investigated using independent samples with t-tests to compare means of the control and experimental groups on adequacy of written plans and adequacy of classroom implementation. As indicated in Table 1, there was a significant difference in adequacy of written lesson plans between experimental and control groups. As in the pre-assessment of the subjects’ lesson plans, evaluation of the adequacy of plans included an assessment of learner objectives, teaching procedures, lesson content and materials, evaluation of learning, and variety of instruction. In addition to a difference in adequacy of written plans, there was a significant difference in adequacy of lesson implementation between groups. In both instances, the subjects receiving training in cognitive monitoring performed better than those with no training.


Table 1 Treatment and Control


Differences for


of Written Plans and Classroom



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