Can classroom exercises designed to get students to “think about how they think” actually help them become more effective and purposeful learners? How can faculty incorporate such activities into their courses, and what are the benefits for their students?
Those are among the questions that will be addressed at “Understanding Student Learning,” a major ACM conference on October 1-3 at Macalester College. The conference is the culmination of the ACM Teagle Collegium on Student Learning project, a two-year exploration of metacognition by a group of 15 faculty members drawn from 12 ACM colleges. The project has been funded by a generous $150,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation.
At the conference, members of the Collegium group will present their research on ways that teachers can help students become more self-aware and self-directed learners. Research projects cover disciplines across the curriculum – languages, psychology, geology, anthropology, biology, music, and others – and students at all levels, though many projects focus primarily on first-year students.
More than 60 faculty and administrators from ACM colleges will participate in the conference to learn about the Collegium’s research, discuss ways that the findings can be applied in the classroom, and to map out further collaborative research projects.
Metacognition – a powerful way to engage students
Metacognition refers to self-awareness of the thinking and learning process, so that an individual has the skills to actively plan how to approach a learning task, to monitor his or her progress while learning, and adapt learning strategies to complete the task.
According to Collegium members, metacognition has been a powerful way to engage students with the larger themes of liberal arts education — such as critical thinking and analysis, integration across disciplines, and reflection about the goals of education — and as a means for helping them better understand the content areas of the curriculum.
Some of the group’s general findings have indicated that:
- Frequent self-monitoring by students develops their confidence to go outside their comfort zones and try new ways of learning.
- Emphasizing metacognition strategies appears to improve students’ learning outcomes — and certainly doesn’t harm them. Findings suggest that students at risk of failing courses have increased their performance to a passing level through these strategies. Some results suggest that students performing in the lowest quartile stand to benefit most from these strategies.
- Faculty report that they have become much more deliberate in including metacognition strategies in designing their courses as a result of this project.
The ACM Teagle Collegium project opened in November 2008 with a conference on current research in metacognition that brought together ACM faculty, directors of teaching and learning centers on the campuses, and outside experts. In the following months, the Collegium group was formed and worked together in spring and summer 2009 to develop plans for their research projects, which they conducted during the 2009-10 academic year.
Conference on “Understanding Student Learning”
- Conference agenda
- Summaries of research projects presented at the conference
- List of conference participants
ACM Teagle Collegium on Student Learning project webpage
Articles about metacognition in the Teagle Liblog