Metacognitive strategies improve learning

Metacognition refers to thinking about one's thinking and is a skill students can use as part of a broader collection of skills known as self-regulated learning. Metacognitive strategies for learning include planning and goal setting, monitoring, and reflecting on learning. Students can be instructed in the use of metacognitive strategies. Classroom interventions designed to improve students’ metacognitive approaches are associated with improved learning (Cogliano, 2021; Theobald, 2021).

Strategies to encourage students to use metacognitive techniques

  • Prompt students to develop study plans and to evaluate their approaches to planning for, monitoring, and evaluating their learning. Early in the term, advise and support students in making a study plan. After receiving feedback on the first and subsequent assessments, ask students to reflect on their performance and determine which study strategies worked and which did not. Encourage them to revise their study plans if needed. One way to support this is to ask students to identify their personal learning environment.  This is an activity where students identify the various resources and support available to them.
  • Offer practice tests. Explain to students the benefits of practice testing for improving retention and performance on exams. Create practice tests with an answer key to help students prepare for exams. Use practice questions for in-class formative feedback throughout the term. Consider creating a bank of practice questions from previous exams to share with students (Stanton, 2021).
  • Call attention to strategies students can adopt to space their practice. This can include explaining the benefits of spaced practice and encouraging students to map out weekly study sessions for your course on their calendar. These study sessions should include the most recent material and revisit older material, perhaps in the form of practice tests (Stanton, 2021).
  • Model your metacognitive processes with students. Show students the thinking process behind your approach to solving problems (Ambrose, 2010). This can take the form of a think-aloud where you talk through the steps you would take to plan, monitor, and reflect on your problem-solving approach.
UMN Mechanical Engineering Professor Sue Mantell describes her experience working through engineering problems at the board.