An investigation in the use of collaborative metacognition during mathematical problem solving. A case study with a primary five class in Scotland

Smith, Julie (2013) An investigation in the use of collaborative metacognition during mathematical problem solving. A case study with a primary five class in Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2013smithphd.pdf] PDF
Download (1MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


The main aim of the research reported in this thesis was to investigate the use of collaborative metacognition by learners during primary school mathematical problem solving. Whereas individual metacognition has been researched for many decades, relatively little is known about how metacognition is used during collaborative interaction. Through a review of current research and theoretical understandings, this thesis provides the first clear conceptualisation and operationalisation of the term collaborative metacognition.

Data were gathered in a naturalistic setting in which students worked in groups of four during their normal classroom problem solving sessions. Data were gathered for three groups over three sessions lasting around 90 minutes evenly spaced over 15 weeks. Three data sets were triangulated in order to provide a rich understanding of the use of collaborative metacognition in group problem solving: content analysis of group interactions, teacher focus group data and critical recall interviews with students.

Findings showed that overall, a very small proportion of talk constituted collaborative metacognition. Results from the content analysis tentatively suggested that higher proportions of collaborative metacognition were associated with success in solving the problem. The critical recall interviews provided evidence that simply quantifying levels of collaborative metacognition was insufficient to understand its use. Data analysis using Activity Theory demonstrated that contradictions in rules, mediating artefacts, and division of labour in the student-to-student activity system hindered collaborative metacognition, even when problem solving was successful. Content analysis also showed a tendency for increased collaborative metacognition when the teacher was present, possibly explained by increased teacher-to-student interaction rather than student-to-student interaction. Teacher focus group data indicated two areas which may have contributed to teachers adopting an approach that influenced collaborative metacognition in this way: initial teacher training and subsequent professional development; and classroom and school factors that affected teacher decisions to promote collaborative group work skills.

Synthesis of the findings led to the emergence of a common theme which may help to explain the findings: the allocation of a fixed role of ‘holder of knowledge’ to one member of a group – either by students or the teacher – appears to have a negative impact on student-to-student collaborative metacognition.

Some tentative implications might be drawn from these findings: the novel research approach was effective in providing a rich insight to the use of collaborative metacognition and these results may be used to guide initial teacher training and professional development to incorporate a focus on the impact of group processes on metacognition. Furthermore, current theoretical understanding of the use of individual metacognition may not transfer to a group situation due to the impact of social processes that influence group interaction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: mathematics education, collaborative learning, metacognition, Activity Theory, content analysis, critical event recall, focus groups, Curriculum for Excellence
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Interdisciplinary Science Education Technologies and Learning
Supervisor's Name: Lally, Professor Victor
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: Dr Julie Margaret Smith
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4719
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2013 08:36
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2014 13:29

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year