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ACM Professors Are a Hit at AAC&U Meeting for Their Session on Metacognition

ACM Professors Are a Hit at AAC&U Meeting for Their Session on Metacognition February 7, 2011

A group of ACM professors drew an overflow crowd at a recent national meeting of higher education administrators and faculty for their presentation on ways to help students become more self-aware, reflective learners.

The panel gave an overview of the work of the ACM-Teagle Collegium on Student Learning, a two-year project by 15 faculty from across the ACM aimed at increasing students’ metacognition, or “learning how to learn.” The Collegium’s collaborations have put them on the leading edge of efforts to introduce metacognition into undergraduate classrooms.

In an article filed from the AAC&U conference in San Francisco, Inside Higher Ed highlighted the timeliness of the topic and the high level of interest in the session:

“In an era of national mega-projects designed to measure and improve student learning, the session on metacognition was a bit old school – just faculty members talking about how they were trying new strategies in their courses, and were thinking about the results…. And yet the room was packed, with deans and provosts forced to sit on the floor or listen outside the doors when capacity was reached.”

Each of the four faculty presenters talked about strategies and practical exercises they’ve used in their courses. The exercises are designed to help students understand how they learn, and then to use that understanding to gauge their progress in a course, make adjustments so they study more effectively, and ultimately improve their grasp of the course material.

The participants in the panel on “Metacognition in Liberal Education: A Report on Student Learning” at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) meeting were:

  • Karl Wirth, Associate Professor of Geology, Macalester College;
  • Holly Swyers, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Lake Forest College;
  • David Thompson, Associate Professor of Spanish, Luther College;
  • Kristin Bonnie, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Beloit College; and
  • John Ottenhoff, Vice President of ACM.

Supported by a $150,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, the two-year Collegium project opened with a conference that brought together ACM faculty, directors of teaching and learning centers on the campuses, and outside experts to review current research in metacognition. In the months that followed, members of the Collegium group developed plans for their research projects, which they conducted during the 2009-10 academic year.

The project culminated in the “Understanding Student Learning” conference in October, 2010, at Macalester College, where more than 60 ACM faculty and administrators gathered to learn about the results of the Collegium’s research.

Following the conference, Collegium members and other interested faculty at ACM colleges have continued their individual and collective investigations on metacognition. They are also sharing their progress through a Collegium page on Facebook and in presentations, such as the one at AAC&U.


Toward a Metacurriculum on Metacognition” by Karl Wirth, Macalester College

Metacognition in First-Year Studies” by Rachel Ragland, Lake Forest College

Working Together” by John Ottenhoff, ACM

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