How much have we really learnt?

In Uncategorized on January 21, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Metacognition – a term often encountered in psychology texts but rarely considered in great detail.

Defined as the ability to monitor one’s current level of understanding and decide when it is not accurate, it is a skill that is often not mastered by individuals.

Very few studies have been conducted into the area and leads me to ask the question of WHY?? How can a students succeed if they have poor metacognitive skills/an inaccurate knowledge of their own learning??

More to Follow

  1. Keep in mind that good students usually have good metacognition. That is one of the reasons that good students do well.

  2. There have been several studies into precision teaching and other similar programs, where children take charge of their own learning (with the supervision of teachers) and can understand where they have learning opportunities and how to go about improving their scores in certain areas (Morningside Academy in the USA).

    The question i wonder about is why these methods are not more widely used? Do you think there should be classes about how to monitor your own progress?

    • I am unsure to why precision teaching and direct instruction methods are not implemented in the majority of schools, based on the vast amount of supportive research and positive findings.
      I think what has become clear over the past few semesters I have spent researching the area is that without changing the perceptions and process of the educational system it will be very hard to implement scientific approaches such as PT & DI.
      In terms of metacognition, I don’t believe that it is ready for large scale implementation (level 3 research) yet. We still need to refine the process as currently research is in the stage of being transferred from lab study to a classroom environment. (see the John Nietfeld link on my main blog page as a source for current studies – he is one of the main investigators in this area)
      As for the execution of metacognitive approaches, I don’t believe a whole class is necessary; it could become a subsection of a study skills syllabus. Nietfeld (2006) carried training out within an ed psych class over one semester, but I believe this time frame could be significantly shortened. (I am planning to spend my masters investigating this)

      On a slight tangent…I am unsure of PT/DI ability to teach higher order skills such as metacognition…
      Students rely heavily on the teacher (or manager) to assess, and outline, behaviour(s) which are below fluency. As well as Outline tool/composite skills of said behaviours, set aims, review data and change learning style of the learner if struggling. Metacognition relies on the individual alone monitoring and providing self judgements on their own learning. I do not doubt PT/DIs ability to improve tool skill fluency but I would question how much a student could improve (if at all) their metacognitive abilities from these techniques?? and would be interested to know your opinion on this matter.

  3. As we have found out, it can be very difficult to implement a training programme in something like metacognition unless a procedure has definitely been shown to work in a standardised way. As much as I agree that all students should hae the opportunity to improve their metacognitive skills, it also relies on the student’s own motivation to learn and what their priorities are as far education goes.
    Perosnally I think PT/DI are a slightly different section of educational research. PT/DI is best implemented, by a teacher, from an early age, and can be incorporated in to a daily curriculum and lesson plan, as a tool to learn subjects. Metacognition is a skill that can be learnt, in order to be implemented by the student themselves in the classroom.

  4. Perhaps your question about the lack of studies into metacognition could be addressed by someone who studied IDD last semester? As Jesse points out, those who have made it to university will have a “good” metacognition and so participants for studies in this area, if my understanding is correct, would be those with IDD.

    I was interested into how metacognition related to Theory of Mind
    and a quick google search revealed an interesting article by Papaleontiou-Louca (2008):


    • I think you have slightly misinterpreted Jesse’s comment. He said that good students usually have good metacognition.

      I would also argue that just because you have reached university level does not mean that you are a good student/have acquired good metacognitive skills.

      Typically developing students have been shown to be overconfident in their judgement of their own knowledge in many studies. Below is a link to one example by Lundeburg:

  5. Intuitively I find the concept of meta-cognition bewildering. I find it difficult to imagine a position in which an individual is unsure of what they do know and what they do not know. I can understand if an individual were overcompensating for their lack of knowledge, or belittling themselves due to modesty or lack of confidence, but to truly be unaware of whether you retain information you thought you did not know, or you thought you knew information that you do not, I find surprising. Perhaps the notion of poor meta-cognitive skills is plausible with regards to differences between cued recall and free recall. Understandably a cue may trigger a memory that was rather faint, whereas in free recall that retrieved information may have failed to surface. However, surely that is due to a weak memory trace and insufficient revision rather than inadequate meta-cognitive skills.

    • I agree that it is a puzzling concept. But if it was not the case (i.e individuals were completely sure on what they do and do not know when taking experimental tests) we would see all individuals providing confidence judgements that were both consistently accurate as well as at the extremities of the scale (high or low) after each test item. This is something that has not been found in the majority of individuals.

      In terms of overcompensating for lack of knowledge/belittling themselves due to modesty I believe these effects would not persist in conditions such as certainty based marking, whereby individuals are punished for their poor judgements and become detrimental to their test marks.

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