Metacognition Training through Think-Aloud Pair Problem Solving [TAPPS]: Two Lessons about Rivers

Ronald Narode
Portland State University
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Initial Publication Date: November 12, 2008 | Reviewed: November 2, 2013


Attached is a description of how to use "Think-aloud Pair Problem Solving" in a classroom. It is followed with two lesson plans on the topic of rivers.

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Any and all science classes.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

This lesson follows a brief review of the water cycle and water budget.

How the activity is situated in the course

It is a regular mode of instruction used daily. The lesson examples follow a prescription from the 70s by physicist, Bob Karplus for the SCIS program. It features a "learning cycle" that has been adapted by numerous science and mathematics curriculum developers.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

River Systems I
  • Watershed formation and topography (watershed, divides, gradient, tributaries)
  • Stream formation: erosion and stream piracy (conglomeration)
  • Land around streams: Beds, Banks, and Channels
  • Land in streams (stream loads) suspended load, bed load, dissolved load

River Systems II
  • Stages of rivers as a function of shape and erosion more than of time
  • Water volume and sediment deposits as a function of time, erosion, and gradient
  • Changing topography and the motion of river banks; meanders, flood plains, and oxbow lakes
  • Flow vectors as a representation of current

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Formulation of hypotheses, synthesis of ideas, critical evaluation of competing models, creation of pictorial and verbal representations, reading topographical maps, reading text for understanding, problem-solving

Other skills goals for this activity

Reading text, cooperative problem-solving, verbal communication, pictorial communication, topo map reading, listening and questioning skills, oral presentation

Description of the activity/assignment

Included in the activity description

Metacognitive components of the activity

Describing one's thoughts to another person requires the problem-solver to listen and attend to their own thoughts as well. The questions and clarifications that the listener describes is yet another window into the problem-solver's thinking.

Metacognitive goals for this activity:

Promote reflective thinking, communication skills, better reasoning, listening skills, and better problem-solving and conceptual understanding.

Assessing students' metacognition

There have been several studies of this instructional strategy. I have used it in my own instruction of mathematics and science for more than 25 years.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Real-time evaluation through circuit-listening and class discussion

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Included in the activity description