Thursday, January 19, 2012

James Lang on Metacognition and Student Learning

In the latest in his series of articles on what psychological research can tell us about student learning, he writes about metacognition with the help of Stephen Chew, a psychologist at Samford University. Along the way, we get links to videos on How to Get the Most out of Studying by Prof. Chew, and to more resources.

An excerpt from Lang's piece:

I asked Chew to give readers a basic definition of metacognition, with some illustrations of the concept both from education and everyday life. "Metacognition," he explained in an e-mail, "is a person's awareness of his or her own level of knowledge and thought processes. In education, it has to do with students' awareness of their actual level of understanding of a topic. Weaker students typically have poor metacognition; they are grossly overconfident in their level of understanding. They think they have a good understanding when they really have a shallow, fragmented understanding that is composed of both accurate information and misconceptions."

That leads weak students, he said, to make poor study decisions: "Once students feel they have mastered material, they will stop studying, usually before they have the depth and breadth of understanding they need to do well. On exams, they will often believe their answers are absolutely correct, only to be shocked when they make a bad grade."

As for examples outside of education, Chew had no trouble pointing them out in a variety of areas, including reality television shows.

"Poor metacognition is a big part of incompetence," he explained. "People who are incompetent typically do not realize how incompetent they are. People who aren't funny at all think they are hilarious. People who are bad drivers think they are especially good. You don't want to fly on a plane with a pilot who has poor metacognition. A lot of reality shows like American Idol highlight people with poor metacognition for entertainment. Everyone knows people who are seldom in doubt but often wrong."


  1. L said...

    Thanks for the post-I have come across this many times. I see taht it is a matter of concern to many.