Metacognition is easily defined: “[It] refers to the ability to reflect upon, understand and control one’s learning,” (Schraw and Dennison, p. 460) or, even more simply, “thinking about one’s thinking.” Despite straightforward definitions, metacognition is a complicated construct that has been the object of research for more than 30 years.
Teaching and Learning
Keeping college students off social media sites and focused on the course material is a daily challenge for many of today’s college faculty. But what if you could harness the power of today’s technologies and students’ proclivity toward social networking to enhance the learning experience rather than distract from it?
When students write essays requiring research, in the age of Wikipedia and other online resources, I worry a little, not so much about the quality of the sources themselves (that has always varied, even in the day of hardcopy sources), but about the quality or outright dearth of note taking that often accompanies the writing of research papers.
One of the student engagement techniques described in Elizabeth F. Barkley’s Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty has students predicting and reflecting on their exam preparation and performance. It’s a technique that helps students see the correlation between their efforts and their exam scores, as well as one that helps them assess the effectiveness of the study strategies they use.
A Vision of Students Today is a short video created by Michael Wesch, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, and 200 KSU students. Since being uploaded to YouTube in Oct 2007 it’s been viewed more than 4 million times. Even if you’ve already viewed it, it’s worth a second look. It describes some of the most important characteristics of students today, as told from the student perspective.
Evidence that students can learn from each other continues to grow. The quality of some of the research documenting that fact is impressive. Here are highlights from a study in which peers were used to facilitate discussion groups in a large general chemistry course.
Are your students too conservative? I don’t mean their politics—I’m talking about their attitudes toward ideas and actions that are new, difficult, or complicated. Many of my writing students are conservative learners: they worry about grades and want to “play it safe,” they don’t take time to imagine alternatives, or they have low skill or confidence levels that reduce their abilities to try new things. And sometimes my own teaching or grading practices undermine my invitations to take the intellectual risks that are crucial to student learning.
“It is a story replicated in many history classrooms during the semester. Students have once again done poorly on an assignment or exam. Their essays are the sites of massive, undifferentiated data dumps. They have paraphrased primary sources instead of analyzing them, ignored argumentation, confused past and present, and failed completely to grasp the ‘otherness’ of a different era.” (p. 1211)
Yvonne is frustrated. She wants to do well in her language arts class, but each essay she completes fails to earn her the grade she believes she deserves. Although her teacher thoughtfully writes out corrective comments on her essays, to Yvonne these seem to run together, forming a nonsensical sea of red ink. With each assignment, she feels less capable and grows more resentful of her instructor.
Self-directed learning skills involve the ability to manage learning tasks without having them directed by others. They are skills necessary for effective lifelong learning and are one of many learning skills students are expected to develop in college. The expectation is that students will become self-directed learners as they mature and gain content knowledge. Here’s a study showing how students can become self-directed with explicit instruction.