Initial Publication Date: December 13, 2011

Classroom Interventions

The Final Project Summaries from the ACM Collegium span the disciplines anthropology, biology, chemistry, classics, computer science, geology, music, psychology, Spanish, statistics, writing and take a number of approaches to teaching metacognitive strategies. Throughout those various approaches, several core interventions achieved prominence in this project. In addition to this summary, see the Teaching Activities page for specific information about these approaches.

  • Exam wrappers. As David Thompson describes the process, "exam wrappers required students to reflect on their performance before and after seeing their graded tests." The first four questions, completed just prior to receiving their graded test, asked students to report the time they spent preparing for the test, their methods of preparation, and their predicted test grade. After reviewing their graded test, students completed the final three reflection questions, including a categorization of test mistakes and a list of changes to implement in preparation for the next test. Thompson then collected and made copies of the wrappers returned them to the students several days later, reminding them to consider what they planned to do differently or the same in preparation for the upcoming test. Thompson reports that each reflection exercise required only 8-10 minutes of class time. Clara Hardy and others also describes uses exam wrappers.
  • Reading Reflections. As Karl Wirth writes, reading reflections, effectively outlined by David Bressoud (2008), are designed to address some of the challenges students face with college-level reading assignments. Students submit online reading reflections (e.g., using Moodle or Blackboard) after completing each reading assignment and before coming to class. In each reflection, students summarize the important concepts of the reading and describe what was interesting, surprising, or confusing to them. The reading reflections not only encourage students to read regularly before class, but they also promote content mastery and foster student development of monitoring, self-evaluation, and reflection skills. For the instructor, reading reflections facilitate "just-in-time" teaching and provide invaluable insights into student thinking and learning. According to Wirth, expert readers are skilled at using a wide range of strategies during all phases of reading (e.g., setting goals for learning, monitoring comprehension during reading, checking comprehension, and self-reflection), but most college instruction simply assumes the mastery of such metacognitive skills.
  • Knowledge surveys. Many members of the group were influenced by Karl Wirth's work on "knowledge surveys" as a central strategy for helping students think about their thinking. Knowledge surveys involve simple self-reports from students about their knowledge of course concepts and content. In knowledge surveys, students are presented with different facets of course content and are asked to indicate whether they know the answer, know some of the answer, or don't know the answer. Faculty can use these reports to gauge how confident students feel in their understanding of course material at the beginning or end of a course, before exams or papers, or even as graduating seniors or alumni.

    Kristin Bonnie's report relates how her students completed a short knowledge survey (6-12 questions) online (via Google forms) on the material covered in class that week. Rather than providing the answer to each question, students indicated their confidence in their ability to answer the question correctly (I know; I think I know; I don't know). Students received a small amount of credit for completing the knowledge survey. She used the information to review material that students seemed to struggle with. In addition, a subset of these questions appeared on their exam " the knowledge survey therefore served as a review sheet.

    Wirth notes that the surveys need not take much class time and can be administered via paper or the web. The surveys can be significant for clarifying course objectives, structure, and design. For students, knowledge surveys achieve several purposes: they help make clear course objectives and expectations, are useful as study guides, can serve as a formative assessment tool, and, perhaps most critically, aid in their development of self-assessment and metacognitive skills. For instructors, the surveys help them assess learning gains, instructional practices, and course design.