Mastery: Metacognition

Metacognition and Mastery

Metacognition is simply thinking about thinking, or in the context of teaching and learning, reflection on the learning process. Research on metacognitive techniques has shown several key benefits of these practices for mastery learning. 

  • Metacognitive practices improve students' ability to transfer their knowledge and skills to new contexts, a key component of mastery. 
  • Reflection on practice, feedback, and learning goals can inform the next round of targeted practice as students move toward mastery. 
  • Metacognition also helps students become more aware of the limits of their own knowledge, moving away from the unconcious incompetence of the true novice and towards expert thinking.

Strategies to promote metacognitionGraphic describing how targeted practice, reflection, observed performance and feedback can help one achieve goals

Here are some examples of metacognitive practice: 

The "Muddiest Point": Students write beriefly about what was most confusing to them in material from today's class.

Reflective journals: Students keep an ongoing journal of their learning. They might write about what they found challenging or how their thinking about course topics has changed over time.

Instructor Metacognitive Modeling: a.k.a. thinking out loud! Instructors can reveal disciplinary thinking habits by talking through how they think about or apporach problems. It's important to be mindful of the expert blind spot, but if you can verbalize your thinking process for students, how you begin, what comes next, how you check your work, what you do if something seems wrong...it can help them learn the habits of mind of experts in your field.

Metacognition in the Margins: When they turn in a writing assignment, students include marginal comments on their thought process during the writing, including questions that they have for the instructor. They could use the commneting feature of a word processor to write these reflections, and the instructor can resppond in the same way. Other places with margins for reflection include mathematical proofs, computer programs (comments in code), PowerPoint presentations (the notes section), and annotated bibliographies.

Exam wrappers: As noted in the section on motivation, exam wrappers can help foster student success by providing an opportunity to reflect on study techniques and plan for future success. Here's an example of an exam wrapper in Physics: 

 


Physics Post-Exam Reflection   Name: ________________________________________

This activity is designed to give you a chance to reflect on your exam performance and, more important, on the effectiveness of your exam preparation. Please answer the questions sincerely. Your responses will be collected to inform the instructional team regarding students’ experiences surrounding this exam and how we can best support your learning. We will hand back your completed sheet in advance of the next exam to inform and guide your preparation for that exam.

Approximately how much time did you spend preparing for this exam?

What percentage of your test-preparation time was spent in each of these activities?

Reading textbook section(s) for the first time _____________

Rereading textbook section(s) _____________ 

Reviewing homework solutions _____________

Solving problems for practice _____________

Reviewing your own notes _____________

Reviewing materials from course website (what materials?)_____________
Other (please specify) _____________

Now that you have looked over your graded exam, estimate the percentage of points you lost due to each of the following (make sure the percentages add up to 100):

Trouble with vectors and vector notation _____________

Algebra or arithmetic errors _____________

Lack of understanding of the concept _____________

Not knowing how to approach the problem _____________

Careless mistakes _____________

Other (Please specify): __________________________

Based on your responses to the questions above, name at least three things you plan to do different in preparing for the next exam. For instance, will you just spend more time studying, change a specific study habit or try a new one (if so, name it), make math more automatic so it does not get in the way of physics, try to sharpen some other skill (if so, name it), solve more practice problems, or something else?

1.

2.

3.

What can we do to help support your learning and your preparation for the next exam? 

 

 


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Comments

Using exam wrappers?

We have been using the exam wrappers over the last year and believe it is working well with our nursing students. Do any of you have evidence that it is effective from literature or your own experience?

Strategies to promote metacognition

Although not mentioned here, I like the Minute Paper for student reflection on learning. The minute paper is unstructured and allows the student their own thoughts. The exam wrapper's intentions are good ones, but do students really remember how much time they spent of the various elements of preparation for an exam? I find questions like these rather irritating and absurd. One would have to keep a log of their study activities to answer them accurately.

If a student doesn't know how to prepare for an exam, I don't see how an exam wrapper can be helpful. Students need to know what kind of learner they are and tailor study habits accordingly.

I like the exam wrapper I

I like the exam wrapper

I think this would go a long way to help out a student reflect on her or his own learning and areas of weakness and/or strength. Help will then be sought in time, before the next exam.

Reflection

I like reflective journaling for my nurse clinical groups. I find that after they are able to put the pieces together if they reflect on their clinical experiences. It helps them move from being focused on completion of tasks to truly comprehending the clinical picture for the patients they care for.

Thinking about thinking

I believe this is a major takeaway of this workshop. improving meta cognition is a helpful tool for the students and aids the myself in deciding on how to improve understanding of the material/how to teach it.

Thinking about thinking

I believe this is a major takeaway of this workshop. improving meta cognition is a helpful tool for the students and aids the myself in deciding on how to improve understanding of the material/how to teach it.

thoughts

There are a few of the "promoting meta-cognition" techniques that I will be using. One is reflective journals. I also use the instructor talking out loud and how I approach a problem, what I say, steps that I take, etc.
I really like the idea of metacognition in the margins.

Well, I am a new fan of the

Well, I am a new fan of the exam wrapper for reasons I stated in my previous post. However, learning isn't only about taking tests and getting good grades.

The "muddiest point" sounds like the "minute paper" I did for an epidemiology class recently. As part of the minute paper we were asked to describe what we were having problems with or what was difficult for us. The course instructor could get an idea from the class about what was problematic and the students could reflect on their own problem areas.

Strategies to promote metacognition

I like the examples given above. I will definitely try to use some of them in my class. I really like the "Muddiest Point". It allows the student to communicate to the instructor the area of least comprehension. The instructor may want to alter their teaching methods if there are several students that have similar complaints.

Strategies to promote metacognition

I like the examples given above. I will definitely try to use some of them in my class. I really like the "Muddiest Point". It allows the student to communicate to the instructor the area of least comprehension. The instructor may want to alter their teaching methods if there are several students that have similar complaints.

use of exam wrappers

I've used something similar but with paper assignments, and what I've found is that many students did not want to take the time to reflect on what they did. Once they finished the assignment, they seemed to wash their hands of it. I think I'll give it another try (after 2 semesters of the practice not seeming to work as I had hoped, I haven't tried it since). I do think metacognition is such an important practice, and one that is quite underused.

I also do "term paper

I also do "term paper wrap-ups", but I make them a completion grade. It doesn't end up being worth many points, but sometimes all it takes is to make it an assignment to give students a little nudge/incentive to think about their writing, the evaluation of their writing, and how they can improve.

exam wrappers

"What can we do to help support your learning and your preparation for the next exam? "

Great question! I'd suggest putting it FIRST even before the analysis.

Strategies

I will utilize these strategies in future teaching experiences. I especially like the Muddiest Point strategy. This will allow each student to express areas of confusion, and allow me to intervene early in the assignment.