Teaching Metacognition Across the Geoscience Curriculum

When students become aware of their own cognitive processes, they can compare their thinking to that of geoscience experts, thus directing their learning toward geoscience habits of mind. Here are a handful of examples of how geoscience faculty have incorporated metacognition in their undergraduate courses.

Jump down to exercises in introductory courses and upper-level courses or to exercises that could be used in courses at any/all levels.

Metacognition in Introductory-Level Courses

Metacognition in Upper-Level Courses

  • Guided Discovery and Scoring Rubric for Petrographic Analysis of a Thin Section: A guided discovery approach is used to "unpack" the methods and observations used by "master" petrographers in the petrographic analysis of a thin section. A series of spread sheets are used to direct students to make appropriate observations to systematically a) identify minerals in thin section, b) describe rock textures to interpret petrogenetic processes and geologic history, and c) apply this information to address questions of geologic significance.

Metacognitive Exercises for Courses At Any/All Levels

  • Making the "black box" model more transparent: Students work with a "mystery box" to determine its contents through an inductive reasoning process in order to better understand how models are used for geoscientific ways of knowing.
  • Reading Reflections are designed to encourage students to complete readings before coming to class, to reflect more deeply on the content of the reading, to make personal meaning from the meaning, and to develop their metacognitive skills for lifelong learning. The reflections consist of three questions: (1) What is the main point of the reading?, (2) What information did you find surprising? Why?, and (3) What did you find confusing? Why? Students submit short responses to two of three questions prior to coming to class.
  • Reflection After Exam #1: Students did poorly on the first exam. This exercise is intended to get them to think about what THEY can do to improve performance on future exams.
  • How I Will Earn An "A": Promoting Goal-Setting and Metacognition: This is a goal-setting activity in which students are prompted to write a letter to the instructor at the beginning of the semester. The letter, written in the past tense and dated to the end of the semester, details what they learned and accomplished that earned them an "A" for the course. This activity also helps students take greater responsibility for, and be more strategic about, their learning. Goal setting, strategic planning, and self-motivational beliefs are important for becoming self-regulating and intentional learners.

For more ideas, explore the complete collection of metacognitive teaching activities