Assessing engagement with construction-based, structured-play activities designed for the teaching and learning of the language of metacognition in a primary Pupil Referral Unit

Background and purpose: I conducted a case study at a primary pupil-referral-unit (PRU), exploring the use of construction-based, structured-play activities for the teaching and learning of the language of metacognition (LoM). Metacognition is important for developing independent learners and, in the context of a PRU, for both assisting students in obtaining academic outcomes similar to their mainstream counterparts and facilitating reintegration into mainstream settings.

Aims: Engagement is a necessary pre-requisite for teaching and learning to occur, and in this report, I explore primary-PRU students’ engagement with the activities to determine if the activities are sufficiently engaging such that they can unfold in a manner consistent with their design.

Study design or methodology: Three students at a primary PRU in the South-East of England participated in eight sessions of two construction-based, structured-play activities; both activities included ‘metacognition resources’ of my own design, which were intended to introduce students to the LoM. To explore engagement with these activities, context-specific indicators were obtained from observation of video and audio data, and a ‘Leuven-inspired’ scale of engagement, ranging from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high) was constructed and used to monitor engagement throughout the sessions.

Findings: Considering the context and the archetypal PRU student, the activities were generally engaging. I found students to be sufficiently engaged such that the activities could unfold in a manner consistent with their design. The build process was, however, generally more engaging than the ‘metacognition elements’ of the activities.

Implications for practice: The findings suggest that construction-based, structured play and the metacognition resources offer a viable means to engage students with metacognition. Such activities may provide a way to help students in PRUs develop independency in learning, facilitate their reintegration into mainstream settings, and improve their academic outcomes.
Keywords (free text)
pupil referral unit, alternative provision, metacognition, self-regulated learning, engagement
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