19 Metacognition

It’s time for a little foray into the psychology of learning.

Growth Mindset

Based on the research of Carol Dweck (2006), adopting a growth mindset – the belief that you can get smarter and learn more through hard work and effective strategies – assists in creating a love of learning and cultivates students’ resilience as they turn setbacks into growth opportunities.

Listen to what Carol Dweck has to say about growth mindset in this video:

The Power of Believing that you can Improve (10:20)

In the video, Dweck emphasizes the importance of praising effective processes and growth, not intelligence, as students work through challenging tasks. These insights are particularly helpful as you prepare to provide feedback for your students.

This may seem obvious, but in addition to encouraging students to have a growth mindset, it’s also important for instructors to actually believe in students’ potential for growth. According to research conducted by the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University in Bloomington, instructors who understood their students’ abilities as fixed were much more likely to have a racial gap in final grades than instructors who believed that their students’ abilities would grow in their class (Schaffauser, 2019). This simple characteristic was the most important faculty predictor of student performance!

If you believe that your students can grow, then they are more likely to do so.

With this in mind, let’s move on to the relationship between growth mindset and metacognition.

Encouraging Student Metacognition

One key strategy for instilling, developing, and maintaining a growth mindset is providing structured opportunities to encourage student metacognition, or thinking about thinking.

As students acquire the ability to reflect, they develop a sense of control over their learning, which can lead to adopting a growth mindset. Think about the various forms of support and reflection that you can offer your students as they move through your course. Here are some questions you might ask that could encourage students to reflect on and change the way they think about and optimize their learning:

  • What did you find confusing or challenging about the exam/assignment or project?
  • What study strategies worked well when you prepared for the exam? What strategies didn’t work well? What will you do differently next time?
  • What study habits worked best for you?
  • What study habit will you try or improve upon next week?
  • What did you find was the most interesting item from this module?
  • What do you want to learn more about from this week’s module? Why?

In iCollege, you can incorporate these types of questions into your modules as short assignments, discussions, and quizzes or surveys in iCollege.

Reflection Question Bank for your Courses

CETLOE has developed a reflective question bank that you can use in your courses. You can use this as well! This resource is a quiz with one question that is randomly pulled from a question library. This should give you the basis for creating many different quizzes throughout your course to gather information on how students are doing in the course, to help your students reflect on how they can better prepare for assignments, and to help students take their learning with them into the world beyond the university walls. If you would like to use this in your course, download this zip file, import it into your course, and either use the quiz that randomly pulls questions from the library any time you think a reflection would be useful, or create new quizzes/surveys that pull randomly from the different sections in the question library. Each question offers immediate feedback for the students, encouraging them to use the reflection to develop their own practice, so hopefully they will be more prepared in the future, and you won’t give yourself an insane grading load at the same time.

Interested in learning more? Check out these additional resources:

Designing for learning growth: Encouraging metacognitive practice to support growth mindsets in students. Thesis for Carnegie Mellon University Master of Design. submitted 3/07/2019.

How do Cognition and Memory Affect Learning?
“Topic 8: Mindsets and metacognition.” Retrieved from https://learning.imascientist.org.uk/mindsets-and-metacognition/ opens in new window on 3/23/2020.

“Linking Mindset to Metacognition.” Retrieved from https://www.improvewithmetacognition.com/linking-mindset-metacognition/ opens in new window on 3/23/2020.

“Racial STEM gap shrink when faculty buy into growth mindsets.” Retrieved from https://campustechnology.com/articles/2019/02/21/racial-stem-gaps-shrink-when-faculty-buy-into-growth-mindsets.aspx opens in new window on 3/24/2020.

Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). “Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed.” Educational Psychologist, 47, 302–314.

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