Moving at the Speed of MediocrityMiguel Guhlin, Guest Blog Entry

Metacognition involves awareness of one’s own thinking and application of problem solving strategies for particular situations…Many information inquiry models (i.e. I-Search, Big6, Research Cycle, REACTS) and inquiry-based approaches (i.e., WebQuests) incorporate metacognitive scaffolds to facilitate thinking. In a study focusing on middle school social studies research projects, Wolf, Brush, and Saye found that metacognitive scaffolds such as those found in information inquiry models like the Big6 are needed when students complete unfamiliar tasks involving complex content. These tools also help students maintain moderate and high confidence levels (self-efficacy) during the project.
Source: Spotlight article

In this Spotlight article, the use of concept mapping is mentioned as a way for student to organize and record their thoughts. The authors cite Carol Gordon who shares, "students who used concept maps in their search process were more likely to make metacognitive judgments that led to successful searching." I agree with the main thrust of the article.

The Big6 approach to information-problem solving provides a framework for students to find, organize, and present the information that they need to solve-real life problems. This accomplishes two goals—to help them complete their assignment efficiently and successfully, and to remind them that they must be information processors in their life beyond school. Combined with graphic organizers, the Big6 becomes a powerful tool to help students complete their work.

Using graphic organizers with the Big6 process can help students build their own knowledge and reflect on how new information links to their mental framework, or schema, of the world. This is important because, according to Buzan (1996), the human brain works primarily with key concepts in an interlinked and integrated manner. There are a variety of tools people can use for creating concept maps. The old favorites–Kidspiration and Inspiration–are being replaced in schools by the free CMAP Tools from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, as well as Web 2.0 and, to a lesser extent, Visual

Unfortunately, the reality of tech use in schools means that there just isn’t enough 1 to 1 student computer access to accomplish concept mapping as anything more than publishing a paper-n-pencil map, or as a group activity. As an educator, I use concept maps every day and over time. Ready access enables me to build on maps over time, use them for planning, etc. I don’t see this happening in the way schools are traditionally organized because of a variety of factors, NCLB and lack of access being only two factors in a multitude. Convincing teachers to use Big6 and electronic graphic organizer tools can be about as successful as catching a glimpse of LOTI 4 instructional activities “in the wild” post-NCLB.

Those sentiments aside, for each step in the Big6, there is at least one graphic organizer that helps students integrate new information with information that they already know. Some
graphic organizers
fit right in with each of the steps of the Big6. Those are mentioned below:

Task Definition

1.1 Define the problem

1.2 Identify information needed

Relevant Maps:

* Chain of events: Use to plan out problem-solving process.

* Fishbone Mapping: Use to identify problem causes and interrelationships between them as they relate to the problem.

* Cycle: Use to show interactions between events.

* Spider Map: Use to explore a topic and identify main ideas and details.

* Problem/Solution: Use to identify a problem and consider multiple solutions and possible results.

Information Seeking Strategies

2.1 Determine all possible sources

2.2 Select the best source

Relevant Maps

* Clustering: Use to generate ideas about possible sources of information.

*Compare/Contrast: Use to compare/contrast information sources.

Location & Access

3.1 Locate sources

3.2 Find information within sources

Relevant Maps

* Spider Map: Use to determine key words for searching.

* Clustering: Use to generate ideas and key words.

Use of Information

4.1 Engage information in sources

4.2 Extract relevant information

Relevant Maps

* Continuum: Use to develop timelines, rating scales or show historical progression.

* Compare/Contrast: Use to compare/contrast information sources.

* Venn Diagram: Use to identify similarities/differences.


5.1 Organize information from multiple sources

5.2 Present the result

Relevant Maps

* Clustering: Use to pull together ideas organizing a product (project, presentation, or paper).

* Compare/Contrast: Use to organize compare/contrast information.

* Problem/Solution: Use to articulate problem and consider multiple solutions and possible results.

* Storyboard: Use to map out presentation or Web page.


6.1 Judge the result

6.2 Judge the process

Relevant Maps

* Interaction Outline: Use to judge the problem-solving process, and the interactions between team members.

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