Teach the Earth > Metacognition > Strategies for Teaching Metacognition > Early Warning

Early Warning

Developed by: Thomas Brown
Kaatje Kraft
Shirley Yu
Wumi Alabi
Saundra McGuire
Jim Myers
Developed at the 2008 workshop, The Role of Metacognition in Teaching Geoscience.

For population: Metacognitively underprepared

Description of the tactic:
Provide an assessment appropriate for your classroom that results in student performance below their expectation (perhaps not failure, but a "C" rather than an "A") that results in a "shot across the bow" effect. This assessment should be early on, and relatively low stakes. Have an opportunity for students to reflect on why what they did didn't result in success on the assessment, what are possible ways to be successful (discuss good self-regulatory strategies here and provide resources where they can find additional support, e.g. http://howtostudy.org, on-campus academic support center), and then provide another low-stakes assessment to discern how these strategies are effective at raising performance.

How and why this tactic is particularly useful for the given population:

  • A challenge and strength is that these students lack any real self-regulatory strategies for success in the academic environment, but it also means ANY strategy would be successful.
  • Students will VALUE the strategies if they see how they help them succeed.
  • It is important that students are successfully implementing these strategies, or they will not see the benefits of using these strategies and can backfire as a success mechanism.
  • One needs to be careful not to have students be so negatively impacted as to give up on the course entirely.

Example of how the population would use this tactic:
In a introductory geology 101 class, give a quiz (worth low % of grade) within the first 2 weeks of class.

Give back the quiz with a discussion about how the class performed overall. Ask students to:

  • Reflect on how they prepared for the test (can make as a think-pair-share).
  • Did they think that these strategies worked for them?


This will result in a class discussion. It's important that students see what worked for other fellow students. This should be supplemented with resources provided by the instructor (including explicitly discussing what metacognition is and why it works).

After this discussion, be sure to discuss the low stakes aspect of this assessment (perhaps the option of dropping their lowest quiz score).

Provide another quiz ~2 weeks later (before a big exam, but enough time to effectively use the strategies), and ask them to reflect on how these strategies helped them be more successful on the 2nd quiz. This is done after you give back the quiz, just like the first quiz discussion.

See more examples of strategies for teaching metacognition



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