Cutting Edge > Metacognition > Teaching Activities > Exam #1

Exam #1

Developed by Perry J. Samson
Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, University of Michigan
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: Feb 25, 2009

Summary

The outcome of the first exam is too often a reality check for students that the learning strategies they brought to this class are not effective. The learning strategies they bring to class are, for many non-science students in introductory science classes, based on models that may work in other disciplines. Shaken by their grade on the first exam students are often now open to rethinking their strategies. Seize the moment!

Learning Goals

Teaching metacognition has as its goals the ability for students to:
  1. Articulate and change their beliefs about learning
  2. Identify ways to plan and set their learning goals
  3. Practice monitoring and adapting their learning strategies
The outcome of the first exam is too often a reality check for students that the learning strategies they brought to this class are not effective. The learning strategies they bring to class are, for many non-science students in introductory science classes, based on models that may work in other disciplines. Shaken by their grade on the first exam students are often now open to rethinking their strategies. Seize the moment!

Context for Use

The first exam in a class often holds an opportunity for metacognitive teaching. At this point the student is arguably most open to hearing your message, especially if their outcome is less than they had hoped. One way to employ metacognitive teaching in this situation is to ask students to assess how well prepared they feel prior to the exam, an example of the kinds of questions they anticipate being on the exam, and a detailed list of how they are preparing for the exam. Once they have answered these questions, presumably prior to the day they will take the exam, the instructor may use the opportunity to pull out a few examples to present (without the author's name) and discuss. The students then take the exam. After the exam and before the grades are recorded the students can be asked how well they think they did and where they had the greatest difficulty.

Description and Teaching Materials

One approach I've used is to require a meeting with all students who scored less than some critical value. At those meetings the students are asked to reflect on how they prepared for the exam and to walk through their logic for at least a few of their answers to identify where their process broke down. A second approach is to offer an opportunity to take a remediation exam a week or so later that offers new questions on the same concepts. The second grades can be averaged with the first or scored as the instructor chooses. The remediation exam should also be followed by a set of metacognitive questions asking the student to assess how their preparation changed from the first to the remediation exam and how those changes affected their understanding.

Teaching Notes and Tips

The elephant in the room with teaching metacognition is that it will siphon time from teaching content. It would not be unreasonable to expect that such teaching would happen by people trained in metacognitive theory and practice in a separate class (presumably before they arrive in your class). Such expectations, however, will likely be foolhardy.

Ironically our desire to expose our students to the breadth of our discipline is at odds with taking the time to try to deepen the learning in class. Hence, there is a fundamental hurdle for geoscientists to accept that it is unlikely our students will learn deeply unless we offer training in how to reflect, how to make meaningful analogies and how to adapt their learning over time.

Assessment

To assess the impact of this intervention you will need to obtain pre-first-exam self-assessments from the students. These can be simple questions like "How well do you think you will do on this exam?" and "What study strategies did you use with estimates of time for each" should be administered prior to when the exam is distributed. This should be matched by a similar question after they've taken the exam and before they see the results to identify how they think they did but with the additional question of how, in retrospect, they think they would have altered their study strategy.

References and Resources

No 'resources' are needed for metacognitive teaching though I use technology in class (LectureTools) to facilitate communication and storage of ideas and responses.

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