F. Devos, V. Van Vooren, A. Mottart

Ghent University (BELGIUM)
In this study we look at Flemish last year secondary school pupils’ spelling skills and the possible correlation with their metacognition for spelling. How do Flemish secondary school pupils perform for spelling? And how can this possibly be related to their metacognition?
Researchers such as Flavell et al. (1995) have stressed that metacognition can play a large role in gaining control over one's learning process. This paper can form the basis for renewing or reinterpreting spelling didactics, especially focusing on the strength of metacognitive skills in spelling instruction.

The paper examines the metacognitive beliefs of Flemish last year secondary school pupils in relation to their spelling performance. The participants were first asked to make a dictation test consisting of 30 rule-based spelling items. For each item, they indicated how sure they were of their spelling (very sure, almost sure, unsure). The combination of the (in)correct spelling and their level of certainty resulted in a metacognitive score.

The pupils made a positive spelling test, with an average of 24.7/30. In 88% of all cases pupils felt ‘very sure’ and ‘almost sure’ about their performance. Only in 6% of the correct answers pupils indicated that they were ‘uncertain’. The metacognitive score shows that the certainty concerning correct answers is a lot higher than the certainty relating incorrect answers.

The results of this study contradict previous research (Gheuens, 2010) that has shown that pupils generally have a rather low or negative metacognition. Their certainty level towards spelling is rather high, and this implies that their metacognitive skills are not ‘underdeveloped’, as has been claimed by teachers themselves (Devos, 2012). Future spelling instruction should focus on those items pupils are uncertain of.

[1] Devos, Filip (2012). Grammatica in het Vlaamse lager en secundair onderwijs: een verkennend attitude-onderzoek bij leerkrachten [Grammar in Flemish primary and secondary education: an exploratory study on teachers’ attitudes]. In: Over taal, 51-5, pp. 134-137.
[2] Flavell, John H., Frances L. Green, Eleanor R. Flavell, Paul L. Harris and Janet Wilde Astington (1995). Young Children's Knowledge About Thinking. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 60-1.
[3] Gheuens, K. (2010). De spelling voorbij. Een onderzoek naar het hedendaagse gebruik van spelling bij Vlaamse en Nederlandse jongeren in formele en informele contexten [Beyond spelling. A study of the present day use of spelling among Flemish and Dutch youngsters in formal and informal contexts]. Unpublished masterproof. Louvain: Université Catholique de Louvain.