Leveling the Playing Field by Developing Student Metacognition

Tuesday 1:30pm-2:45pm Student Union: Santa Ana A and B
Round Table Discussion


Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft, Whatcom Community College

Metacognition is the ability to think about ones thinking, as part of a large context of self-regulation of learning. Students who demonstrate the ability to be metacognitive are more likely to be successful at any stage of their career, whether it be as a K-12 student, a first year college student, or a graduate student. Metacognition is a skill that can and should be taught, particularly in the context of the discipline because it will not only yield stronger students, it also helps address issues of equity. At this roundtable, we will spend some time talking about what metacognition looks like at different stages in the geosciences and share strategies that have been successful in supporting student development of metacognition.

Resources Discussed during session

Leveling the Playing Field by Developing Student Metacognition -- Discussion  

This post was edited by Gigi Richard on Jul, 2017
Metacognition - definition - students thinking about how students learn. Have the students realize that they can determine which strategies are most effective. Being aware of what works for you. It's different for everyone, so we need to help students be more self-aware about their learning.
- Get students to think about why they're doing the things they do.
- it's flexible and context dependent - students should be aware enough to vary the strategy based on the task.
- skill and approach to problem-solving
- reflective - how did you answer that? what did you use to answer that?
- what are you going to do differently next time?

Example - asking students after an exam which strategies were most effective.

Laminated metacognitive card that students have with a series of prompting questions, from a Diff-Eq course. "Where have you seen these ___ before?".

We can bring this into each class. Can step students through our own problem solving thought process as you do problem solving in class...."a think aloud". You can also do this with reading a journal article and in-class discussion. For example,

This should be a part of freshman orientation class along with the intro to college life info. Some schools do this. Do students know now to apply this into their other courses after learning about it in the freshman intro course? Faculty all need to use common language and apply it in their other courses. Students that have better metacognitive skills actually can transfer their knowledge from one class to another.

Also, it's about student awareness of what they understand and don't understand. Have students do concept maps that force students to see how concepts relate to each other.

Are there effective strategies to help students improve metacognition and self-regulation?


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This post was edited by Steven Semken on Jul, 2017
Our group: Bean, Dwight E., Barbara B., Robert B., Kathy S., Steve S.

Metacognition: thinking about thinking. One of the types of knowledge classified by Anderson & Krathwohl (revised Bloom's) taxonomy. Reflection on your own thought processes and learning; students benefit from applying it. Karl Wirth and Dex Perkins also have written on it.
Self-regulation: students have a problem to solve, devise a plan to solve it, stick to that plan. Chapter 7 in Ambrose "How Learning Works" discusses it and includes a useful diagram.

Different examples of how we use these in our own teaching.
Close relationship between metacognition and self-regulation.
Exam wrapper method.
Learning about yourself as you learn science and learn how to solve problems.
Do students consider these exercises a waste of time? Do they already think they know everything? How do you encourage students to be more receptive to this? Students may not see the value right away, but eventually do (perhaps in later classes).
Can do little things: two-stage exam; students answer questions individually first, and then again in small groups. While waiting for others to finish, students encouraged to figure out how many items they got wrong (and get credit for accuracy).
Knowledge surveys (self-efficacy). Students assess their ability to answer questions that span the set of learning objectives for the course.
Could you do a 5-minute metacognitive strategy at the start of each class?
Students self-modulate an in-class quiz: besides choosing a response, students identify their level of certainty that their answer is right (1 = high, 2 = medium, 3 = low). Divide the quiz score (1 = correct, 0 = no answer, -1 = wrong) by the level of certainty.


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- about making changes - monitoring your own learning - what am I understanding? what do I need to do to enhance my understanding?
- students regulating their behavior - how they approach the task of learning
- distinct from motivation - students can be very motivated but lack self-regulation and vice versa, there are students who are self-aware, but very unmotivated and don't care.
- or students lack motivation to implement the strategies the know will help

Do the "LearnSmart" type e-book readers help students or is it spoon-feeding and not supporting them learning their own self-regulation?


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Definition discussion:
- learning about learning--what does that look like in different contexts?
What is the best way for me to learn?
Reflecting on those things and processing, I know something, and I learned something in a class, how did i get to know this thing--the reflection is key. Related to reflection and learning.
Grounded in Ed research/cognitive science
Teach students to be aware of their learning--owners of their learning.
Self regulation is the larger umbrella and metacognition is the the reflective piece within in. Metacog is more about the reflecting on their learning rather than the content.

Strategies for classroom:
- Exam wrapper--provide reflections prior to taking an exam and then after to prepare them for what they need to do before the next exam. remind them what they need to work on for the next test.
- own their learning, by make their own study guide, one question for each section of the chapters and have to turn it in before the exam; can also do it as a class and help them construct the study exam, but the challenge is that you then end with what you know they need vs. them continuing to go on.
- before class starts, students go up and write down something they remember from the week before and put it on the word (phrase, picture, word) and then review the content with the class to help them get back up to speed. A related technique--minute paper/muddy point, what is something that you got out of todays' class, what is the muddiest point?
- Design analysis- end of each day, start off with what did you learn? what did you do to learn that? plan to try and use the learning outcomes to gauge what we actually did relative to what we learned? Could even have students talk to each other based on who got the most out of what and the least out of something else to help learn from each other and build community.
- Asking students to have to explain what they're doing to someone in the general population
-transparency framework- Purpose and list of tasks and examples of it--purpose includes the skill sets and the knowledge that they'll be gaining. A list of tasks to get there. Can build that with your students--and make sure everyone is on the same page (AAC&U recommendations)
- use learning preferences--what are your preferences and how do you work on those that are not your strengths? how can you develop them like you'd strengthen a muscle.
- Teach students about Bloom's taxonomy; goes back to the transparency


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Metacognition: thinking about thinking; what I know and don't know, how do I learn
- monitoring along the way and getting students to assess and determine what they're learning and how successfully

Self-regulation: from social learning world, learners' environments and motivations; more of a behavioral thing

Self-regulated learning is the marriage of the two and was developed by educational psychologists

Participants: 2YC faculty, NSF PO, 4-year/graduate faculty

Strategies in classroom
- Think-pair-share at beginning of class/semester about what "successful students do"
- Writing assignment about what's worked for them and what are successful strategies
- Subsequent reflection on how each student's plan worked in approaching assignments/exams
- Wind up semester with reflection that's looking forward for what they'll do in future semesters/classes
- Works well for a student population that's coming out of high school relatively underprepared
- Time management and improving seems to be really important

In undergraduate classes, biggest problem is students not being able to identify what they don't know. Formative assessment was really critical, e.g., peer instruction with clickers, low stakes assessments, assignments. Often their existing learning strategies worked ok once they've identified what they don't know. Even in senior level courses, give out flowchart on steps for learning. A few weeks into the semester, have them figure out what part of the flow chart they were "kicking" out of the process.

Metacognition is also identifying what has been successful in learning and also about identifying their misconceptions (though very hard to do).

Talking in groups (maybe every couple of weeks) about what is working and what is not working for learning. Report out is a question in learning management system quiz.

In larger classes, have students write down the main point of the lecture/class period.

Flipping the classroom provides more time for these valuable conversations during the face-to-face time.


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Brennan, Gretchen, Lynsey, Abigail, Jenny, Cinzia

metacognition - knowing what you know, thinking about the way that you learn, the process of learning, naming what you're doing, "about knowledge", e.g. are you a visual learner, do you take notes, etc.

self-regulation - reflecting on how to do better, self-evaluating, taking ownership of practice, understanding where you made mistakes and fixing it, "external factors" - test too hard, etc., "internal factors" - i went to a party instead of studying, etc. one prof asks "was it you or me?" after test - exam wrappers: after test how confident were you? how did you study? etc, then look at results and re-evaluate - how will you study differently?, what could prof have done differently?; alternatively exam wrapper in the moment

no grade for exam self-reflection; some students like and some students don't, goal is to think about the process, the students see value in self-reflection

how many hours did you study for the test? what grade did you think you would get? use the information to inform future students. do self-reflection skills improve over the course of the class? sometimes. some students set in their ways. others see dramatic improvements.

group discussion as exam wrapper. sense of solidarity when students start to talk about challenges.

use IF-AT cards or 2-stage exams can enhance meta-cognition

knowledge surveys online - several statements - self-evaluate their knowledge, 50% use, but grades increased

anti-dropout survey - did you think about dropping this class? if so, why? what made you stay in class? what was hardest non-academic factor?

+delta surveys - formative assessment - online - assessment of what student controls vs. what prof controls

keep student notebook with reflective activities throughout semester


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1. Definition?
* self-reflection, checking out where you are doing the landscape wrt what should know
* reflect on how well understand something; if don't understand, know why not; thinking about your learning
* thinking about how you learn; knowledge surveys in action
* thinking about thinking; self-regulated, have a plan; monitoring how well doing; reflection/evaluation of their relearning

2. How do you facilitate metacognitive skill development?
* in-class assessments that couple knowledge test items with confidence on their responses
* learning activities (e.g. HW, labs, etc.) that involve repetition of the application of the same knowledge and skill sets
* use a gallery walk approach for learning definitions, geologic maps, etc. - there is a "what do I know about this topic?" aspect to the gallery approach
* be explicit
* beginning-of-semester goal-setting exercise
* during semester personal reflections on progress, including exam wrappers
* two-stage exams

3. How would you like to use metacognition ?
* help students be more successful

4. What is your favorite activity?
* two-stage exams & exam wrappers


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