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Nov. 6, 2018

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Metacognition and Student Learning

We are both interested in student learning. In particular, we are interested in evaluating instructional tools and learner activities that will facilitate students' learning in chemistry. It is important that any activities we implement in our own classrooms are supported by theory and well-constructed scientific evidence. There is ample evidence in the literature to support the importance of metacognition to student learning. Metacognition reflects learners’ ability to “know what they know and, more importantly, what they don’t know” as well as having the strategies and skills needed to address learning needs in any given situation. Students who are capable of more accurate self-monitoring and self-assessment usually outperform less accurate students. We have been engaged in an ongoing project to develop and improve self-monitoring and self-assessment skills in students of introductory organic chemistry by providing them with a variety of metacognitive activities and scaffolds as part of their ongoing class studies.

Our recent publication, Metacognitive Foundations in Higher Education Chemistry, reflects a review we conducted regarding research studies on metacognition in higher education chemistry courses. Metacognition has been somewhat of a “buzz word” recently, as indicted by the almost 17,000 articles using keywords “metacognition AND higher education AND science” that have been published since 2010. Our publication, however, yielded only a few articles that directly taught, evaluated or implemented metacognitive activities in a higher education chemistry domain. Our article highlights this research and identifies goals for future work, primarily the need for more research in senior chemistry courses and more longitudinal studies that demonstrate the effects of metacognitive interventions over time.

Fatma Arslantas, a second year doctoral student in psychology, and winner of a 2018 Laurier Centre for Women in Science (WinS) Student Research and Travel grant, was a co-author on this publication. She completed her Masters thesis, supervised by Dr. Wood in 2017. Her thesis was titled: Exploring Metacognition, Multitasking and Test Performance in a Lecture Context.

Through this project we found it surprising that much of the literature reviewed in this publication treats metacognition as a general construct (i.e., either you have it or you don’t), and measurements of metacognition are often indirect and based on student self-reports via surveys. However, mounting evidence indicates that metacognition may be not only discipline-specific but also task-specific and we must do a better job of measuring metacognition in the moment while students are working on a specific task.

We are currently working on a series of papers reflecting a program of research we have been conducting to evaluate concrete learning activities created for chemistry courses at Laurier. These papers will introduce these new curriculum tools, the research examining their impact for learning and the connection between these tools and metacognition. In our own individual research programs, we will continue our efforts to implement and measure the effects of metacognitive activities on students of introductory organic chemistry.

After reading our article, we hope that readers will learn about metacognition and come to appreciate the important role it plays in student learning.

This work should be of interest to anyone who teaches in a secondary or post-secondary classroom, regardless of discipline.

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