• 21 July 2018
Helping Students With Metacognition

Helping Students With Metacognition

Jun 28, 2018

Metacognition – or thinking about thinking – is a promising resource for students to match their sense of preparedness to reality, and gain confidence in their actual abilities come the next exam or major assignment.

Sometimes it’s not what one thinks that’s holding one back – but how one thinks about thinking. That’s metacognition – and it could be a powerful tool for tutors in closing the gap between how well-prepared students think they are and the reality.

Researchers at Stanford have found that asking students to think about how they’d prepare for an exam earned higher grades than those who weren’t asked – on average, a third of a letter grade higher. The issue, researchers say, is that students who don’t reflect on how they approach an exam or assignment tend to overestimate their performance – feeling overconfident when, in reality, they’re underprepared.

Metacognitive awareness seeks to help students recognize the gap between knowing of a topic and understanding it. Students as young as three can benefit, as well. By actively owning their academic progress and asking critical questions of their learning process, students can gain a stronger command of material and the consequences of how well they’ve prepared.

To develop students’ metacognitive skills, Edutopia has a list of questions that tutors can adapt to encourage students to reflect on while studying for an exam and afterwards. Instead of rereading and highlighting material, students can quiz themselves by asking:

  • What will be on the exam?
  • What material do I struggle with or don’t understand?
  • How much time should I set aside to study before the exam?
  • Do I have all the materials I need?
  • Where would I study most effectively?
  • Am I using the right strategies to study?
  • What grade would I get if I took the exam right now?

Students can ask similar questions after the exam, to reinforce self-reflection:

  • What questions did I get wrong and why?
  • Did I not understand anything on the exam?
  • Was I well-prepared?
  • What could I have done differently?

Likewise, tutors can build metacognitive questions into their tutoring sessions, by having students actively engage with the learning material. Encourage questions like “What study habits are most effective?” and “What could I do differently to make study easier?” at the beginning and end of your tutoring session. Tutors should also provide constructive feedback to further enrich students’ self-reflection: ask yourself, “What should my student know to achieve better results?”

By helping build metacognitive skills, students have the opportunity to nurture a positive growth mindset when it comes to tackling learning challenges, turning a failure ( “I can’t understand this”) into a quest for the answer (“How can I understand this?”).