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Get Students to Focus on Learning Instead of Grades: Metacognition is the Key!


Get Students to Focus on Learning Instead of Grades:Metacognition is the Key! Saundra Yancy McGuire, Ph.D., Asst. Vice Chancellor for Learning, Teaching, and Retention – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Get Students to Focus on Learning Instead of Grades: Metacognition is the Key!

Get Students to Focus on Learning Instead of
GradesMetacognition is the Key!
  • Saundra Yancy McGuire, Ph.D.,
  • Asst. Vice Chancellor for Learning, Teaching, and
  • Professor of Chemistry
  • Past Director, Center for Academic Success
  • Louisiana State University
  • Baton Rouge, LA

2004-2005 National College Learning Center
AssociationFrank L. Christ Outstanding Learning
Center Award 
Desired outcomes
  • We will understand why students spend little time
    studying and do not know how to learn
  • We will have concrete learning strategies that
    faculty can teach students to increase learning,
    and we will be committed to teaching them to our
  • We will have more resources for our students
  • We will view our students differently
  • We will see positive changes in our students
    performance and self-perception
  • We will spend time reflecting on improving our
    teaching and our students learning

The Story of Four Students
  • Travis, intro psychology student
  • 47, 52, 82, 86
  • Robert, first year chemistry student
  • 42, 100, 100, 100
  • Maryam, first year art student
  • 57, 87
  • Dana, first year physics student 80, 54, 91, 97,
    90 (final)

Howd They Do It?
  • They became expert learners
  • by using metacognition!
  • They learned to think about their own thinking,
    and they studied to LEARN,
  • not just to make the grade!

  • The ability to
  • think about ones own thinking
  • be consciously aware of oneself as a problem
  • monitor and control ones mental processing (e.g.
    Am I understanding this material?)
  • accurately judge ones level of learning
  • term coined by Flavell in 1976

Travis, junior psychology student 47, 52, 82,
  • Problem Reading Comprehension
  • Solution Preview text before reading
  • Develop questions
  • Read one paragraph at a time
  • and paraphrase information

Robert, freshman chemistry student 42, 100,
100, 100
  • Problem Using examples to do
    homework problems
  • Solution Study information before trying
  • homework problem
  • Use example to test skill
  • Do homework problems as if doing a
    test or quiz (no looking at
    solution manual or examples!)

Maryam, freshman art student 57, 87
  • Problem Not seeing the underlying
    structure of different types of art
  • Solution Focus on characteristics of different
    artists work in order to indentify the
    painter of an unfamiliar piece of art

Dana, first year physics student 80, 54, 91, 97,
90 (final)
  • Problem Memorizing formulas and using
  • Solution Solve problems with no external
    aids and test mastery of concepts

(No Transcript)
Danas Spring 2010 Grades
  • Course Grade Hrs Carried Hrs Earned
    Quality Pts
  • Biology A 3.00 3.00
  • Comp Sci A 3.00 3.00
  • Math A 4.00 4.00
  • Med. Phys A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • Mechanics A 3.00 3.00

Cumulative GPA 3.88
Danas Fall 2010 Grades
  • Dept Course Grade Hrs Carried Hrs Earned
    Qual Pts
  • BIOL 1202 B 3.00 3.00
  • CHEM 1201 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • KIN 2500 B 3.00
    4.00 9.00
  • PHYS 2231 B 3.00
    3.00 9.00
  • PHYS 2411 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00

Semester GPA 3.4
Danas Spring 2011 Grades
  • Dept Course Grade Hrs Carried Hrs Earned
    Qual Pts
  • BIOL 2160 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • CHEM 1202 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • CHEM 1212 A 2.00
    4.00 8.00
  • PHYS 4058 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • PHYS 4132 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00

Cumulative GPA 3.83
Danas Fall 2011 Grades
  • Dept Course Grade Hrs Carried Hrs Earned
    Qual Pts
  • CHEM 2060 A 3.00 3.00
  • ENG 2123 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • MEDP 4331 A 2.00
    4.00 8.00
  • MEDP 4332 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00
  • MEDP 4351 A 3.00
    3.00 12.00

Cumulative GPA 3.86!
Reflection Questions
  • What is the difference, if any, between studying
    and learning?
  • Which, if either, is more enjoyable?
  • When did you learn the conceptual structure
    (relationships between basic concepts) of your
    discipline? When/why/how did you to learn this?

Characteristics of Many of Todays Students
  • Working more hours
  • More diagnosed ADHD
  • Interested in obtaining credentials
  • Feel entitled to an A or B if they consistently
    attend class
  • Few time management skills
  • Few learning skills

Why dont most students know how to learn or how
to study?
Why dont students know how to learn or how to
  • It wasnt necessary in high school
  • - 63 of 2010 entering first year students
    spent less than six hours per week doing
    homework in 12th grade.
  • - More than 48 of these students said they
    graduated from high school with an A average.
  • Students confidence level is high
  • - 71.2 believe their academic ability is
    above average or in the highest 10 percent
    among people their age
  • 2010 Higher Education Research Institute

What did most of your teachers in high school do
the day before the test?
How do you think most students would answer the
following questions?
What did they do during this activity?
What grade would you have made on the test if you
went to class only on the day before the test?

Faculty Must Help Students Make the Transition
to College
  • Help students identify and close the gap
  • current behavior current grades
  • efficacious behavior desired grades

Counting Vowels in 45 seconds
How accurate are you?
Dollar Bill Dice Tricycle Four-leaf
Clover Hand Six-Pack Seven-Up Octopus
Cat Lives Bowling Pins Football Team Dozen
Eggs Unlucky Friday Valentines Day Quarter Hour
How many words or phrases do you remember?
Lets look at the words again
What are they arranged according to?
Dollar Bill Dice Tricycle Four-leaf
Clover Hand Six-Pack Seven-Up Octopus
Cat Lives Bowling Pins Football Team Dozen
Eggs Unlucky Friday Valentines Day Quarter Hour
NOW, how many words or phrases do you remember?
What were two major differences between the first
attempt and the second attempt?
1. We knew what the task was2. We knew how
the information was organized
Faculty Must Help Students Learn How to Learn!
  • Help them understand the learning process
  • Help them determine their learning style
  • Teach them specific learning strategies
  • Implement pedagogical strategies that make them
    use the learning strategies
  • Assess and provide feedback early and often

Cognitive Science The Science of the Mind
  • Questions
  • How do humans process information?
  • How do people increase their knowledge?
  • What factors influence learning?
  • What types of learning facilitate transfer of
    information learned to new settings?
  • How can we change teaching to improve learning?

Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., Cocking, R.R.
(Eds.), 2000. How people learn Brain, Mind,
Experience, and School. Washington, DC
National Academy Press.
Keys to Learning Based on Cognitive Science
  • Deep factual and procedural knowledge of a
    discipline is required to solve complex problems
  • Learning is a continuous process repetition is
    the key
  • New knowledge must be tied to existing knowledge
  • Learning should involve both sides of the brain
    and several learning styles

What we know about learning
  • Active learning is more lasting
  • than passive learning
  • Thinking about thinking is important
  • Metacognition
  • The level at which learning occurs
  • is important
  • Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy
Anderson Krathwohl, 2001 http//projects.coe.uga
This pyramid depicts the different levels of
thinking we use when learning. Notice how each
level builds on the foundation that precedes it.
It is required that we learn the lower levels
before we can effectively use the skills above.
Blooms Taxonomy
Graduate School
Putting elements together to form a coherent or
functional whole reorganizing elements into a
new pattern or structure through
generating, planning, or producing.
Making judgments based on criteria and standards
through checking and critiquing.
Breaking material into constituent parts,
determining how the parts relate to one another
and to an overall structure .
Carrying out or using a procedure through
executing, or implementing.
Constructing meaning from oral, written, and
graphic messages through interpreting,
exemplifying, classifying, summarizing,
inferring, comparing, and explaining.
High School
Retrieving, recognizing, and recalling relevant
knowledge from long-term memory.
Example Blooms Levels of Learning Applied
to Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Creating Write a story about Goldilocks and the Three Fish. How would it differ from Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Evaluating Judge whether Goldilocks was good or bad. Defend your opinion.
Analyzing Compare this story to reality. What events could not really happen.
Applying Demonstrate what Goldilocks would use if she came to your house.
Understanding Explain why Goldilocks liked Baby Bears chair the best.
Remembering List the items used by Goldilocks while she was in the Bears house.
Adapted from http//
When we teach students about Blooms
TaxonomyThey GET it!
At what level of Blooms did you have to operate
to make As or Bs in high school?
  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

At what level of Blooms do you think youll need
to be to make an A in Chem 1201?
  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

How do we teach students to move higher on
Blooms Taxonomy?Teach them the Study Cycle
adapted from Frank Christs PLRS system
The Study Cycle
Preview before class Skim the chapter, note
headings and boldface words, review summaries and
chapter objectives, and come up with questions
youd like the lecture to answer for you.
Attend class GO TO CLASS! Answer and ask
questions and take meaningful notes.
Review after class As soon after class as
possible, read notes, fill in gaps and note any
  • Study Repetition is the key. Ask questions
    such as why, how, and what if.
  • Intense Study Sessions - 3-5 short study
    sessions per day
  • Weekend Review Read notes and material from the
    week to make connections

  • Assess your Learning Periodically perform
    reality checks
  • Am I using study methods that are effective?
  • Do I understand the material enough to teach it
    to others?

Intense Study Sessions
1 Set a Goal (1-2 min) Decide what you want to accomplish in your study session
2 Study with Focus (30-50 min) Interact with material- organize, concept map, summarize, process, re-read, fill-in notes, reflect, etc.
3 Reward Yourself (10-15 min) Take a break call a friend, play a short game, get a snack
4 Review (5 min) Go over what you just studied
Concept maps facilitate development of higher
order thinking skills
And there are many different forms of concept maps
Chapter/Paper Map
Title of Chapter/Paper
Primary Headings
Secondary Subheadings
Persuasive Writing
Reasons, Facts, Examples
Reasons, Facts, Examples
Compare and Contrast
Concept 1
Concept 2
How are they similar?
How are they different?
Gabriel, Kathleen F. (2008) Teaching Unprepared
Students. Sterling, VA Stylus Publishing
Effective Strategies for Teaching Unprepared
  • Establish high expectations
  • Emphasize Consistent Contact
  • Determine Students Learning Styles
  • Define Student Success (Rubrics may be important)
  • Clarify Student Responsibility
  • Establish a Learning Community of Scholars
  • Meet Students Where They Are
  • Interweave Assessment and Teaching

Kathleen Gabriel, Stylus Publishing, 2008
Help Students Develop the Right Mindset
Shenk, David, 2010. The Genius in All of Us Why
Everything You've Been Told About Genetics,
Talent, and IQ Is Wrong. New York Doubleday
Dweck, Carol, 2006. Mindset The New Psychology
of Success. New York Random House Publishing
Mindset is Important!
  • Fixed Intelligence Mindset
  • Intelligence is static
  • You have a certain amount of it
  • Growth Intelligence Mindset
  • Intelligence can be developed
  • You can grow it with actions

Dweck, Carol (2006) Mindset The New Psychology
of Success. New York Random House Publishing
A Fixed vs. Growth Mindset determines reactions
  • Challenges avoid vs. embrace
  • Obstacles give up easily vs. persist
  • Tasks requiring effort fruitless vs. path to
  • Criticism ignore vs. learn from
  • Success of Others feel threatened by vs. find
    lessons and inspiration in

(No Transcript)
The Impact of Using Metacognitive Strategies
  • Without these strategies, I probably would have
    gotten a C in chemistry. You showed us the first
    week a way to get an A in the class and I knew
    that was going to be my only way to achieve that
    A. I was planning on just studying before the
  • But when you stressed how important it was to
    preview and review and study 2 hours a day or so,
    I was in shock, but I followed the guideline and
    got myself an A. So, I would like to thank you,
    because without these strategies, I probably
    would have done terribly in Chemistry.

Fall 2009 First semester chemistry student
and from a MS community college student
  • Sent Thursday, February 08, 2007 913 AM
  • To Carla C. Falkner
  • Subject RE metacognition again!
  • Thanks, metacognition made a BIG difference in my
    grade. I found out that I am a auditory
    learner, recording the lectures works best for
    me. I realized that a lot of words are flying
    over my head while I am taking notes. (key pieces
    that can help me to produce a clearer image)
    Some of my notes were taken so quickly that I
    couldn't make ANY sense out of them when I tired
    to read them but now I have a tape to back them
    up so I can figure out what they were supposed to
    mean. I just thought you would like some
    positive feed back since you keep taking the time
    to inform us with metacognition. I can not say
    the word hardly or spell it but with out a doubt
    I know it WORKS!!!!

and from the faculty
  • What I found very useful from both your
    presentations and the LSU website was the
    language of how to talk to students about these
    issues. I need the help because I've not read in
    this area of metacognition/learning and I
    certainly wasn't trained in graduate school to
    know how to think about these issues either. Your
    website is very generous because it's not
    password protected and you share presentation
    slides. I was able to incorporate some helpful
    slides in several of my class presentations.
    Feeding them a little at a time....

University of MS Political Science Professor
Performance in Gen Chem I Based on One Learning
Strategies Session (F 2010)
Attended Absent Exam 1 Avg.
72.35 70.11 Exam 2 Avg.
76.01 68.74 Final course Avg.
82.48 72.61 Final Course Grade B C
Even one 50-min presentation on study and
learning strategies may mean an improvement of
one full letter grade!
Note 15 of the final course grade was
determined by homework students could
also earn 5 for extra credit activities.
LSU Analytical Chemistry Graduate Students
Cumulative Exam Record
2004 2005 9/04 Failed 10/04 Failed 11/04 Fail
ed 12/04 Failed 1/05 Passed 2/05 Failed 3/05 Faile
d 4/05 Failed
2005 2006 10/05 Passed 11/05 Failed 12/05 P
assed best in group 1/06 Passed 2/06 Passed 3/06 F
ailed 4/06 Passed last one! 5/06 N/A
Began work with CAS and the Writing Center in
October 2005
Dr. Algernon Kelley, December 2009
and from the perspective of a faculty
member who learned metacognitive strategies as a
  • I am happy to report to you that many of my
    students are using the study cycle and all of the
    outcomes are positive.  In summary, students who
    were failing all of their classes, including my
    course and in their final semester before being
    removed from the university are now the
    top students in their respective classes.   I am
    so proud of these students.  Many of the students
    stated to me that they will continue to use the
    study cycle.....
  • October 15, 2010

Algernon Kelley, Xavier University Chemistry
Feedback from one of Als students
  • Oct. 17, 2011
  • Hello Dr. Kelley.
  • I am struggling at Xavier and I REALLY want to
    succeed, but everything I've tried seems to end
    with a "decent" grade. Im not the type of person
    that settles for decent. What you preached during
    the time you were in Dr. Privett's class last
    week is still ringing in my head. I really want
    to know how you were able to do really well
    even despite your circumstances growing up.  I
    was hoping you could mentor me and guide me down
    the path that will help me realize my true
    potential while here at Xavier. Honestly I want
    to do what you did, but I seriously can't find a
    way how to. Can I please set up a meeting with
    you as soon as youre available so I can learn
    how to get a handle on grades and classes?
  • Oct. 24, 2011
  • Hey Dr. Kelley,
  • I made an 84 on my chemistry exam (compared to
    the 56 on my first one) using your method for 2
    days (without prior intense studying). Thanks
    for pointing me in the right direction. Ill come
    by your office Friday and talk to you about the
  • Nov 3, 2011
  • Hey Dr. Kelley!
  • I have increased my Bio exam grade from a 76 to
    a 91.5 using your system. Ever since I started
    your study cycle program, my grades have
    significantly improved. I have honestly gained a
    sense of hope and confidence here at Xavier. My
    family and I are really grateful that you have
    taken time to get me back on track.

From Fall 2011 Xavier University student
We can significantly increase student learning!
  • We must teach students the learning process and
    specific strategies
  • We must not judge student potential on initial
  • We must encourage students to persist in the face
    of initial failure
  • We must use assessment tools to help students
  • We must encourage the use of metacognitive tools

Final Reflection Question
  • Who is primarily responsible
  • for student learning?
  • a) the student
  • b) the instructor
  • c) the institution

Who do you think students say is primarily
responsible for student learning?
  • a) the student
  • b) the instructor
  • c) the institution

  • The reality is that
  • when all three of these entities take full
    responsibility for student learning,
  • we will experience a significant increase in
    student learning, retention, and graduation

Special Note
  • Please visit the CAS website at
  • We have on-line workshops that will introduce
    you and your students to effective metacognitive
    strategies. Please feel free to contact me at
  • Have fun teaching your students powerful
    metacognitive strategies!
  • Saundra McGuire

Useful Websites
  • Searches on

Additional References
  • Bruer, John T. , 2000. Schools For Thought A
    Science of Learning in the Classroom. MIT Press.
  • Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., Cocking, R.R.
    (Eds.), 2000. How people learn Brain, Mind,
    Experience, and School. Washington, DC
    National Academy Press.
  • Christ, F. L., 1997. Seven Steps to Better
    Management of Your Study Time. Clearwater, FL H
    H Publishing
  • Cromley, Jennifer, 2000. Learning to Think,
    Learning to Learn What the Science of Thinking
    and Learning Has to Offer Adult Education.
    Washington, DC National Institute for Literacy.
  • Ellis, David, 2006. Becoming a Master Student.
    New York Houghton-Mifflin.
  • Hoffman, Roald and Saundra Y. McGuire. (2010). 
    Learning and Teaching Strategies.  American
    Scientist , vol. 98, pp. 378-382.
  • Nilson, Linda, 2004. Teaching at Its Best A
    Research-Based Resource for College Instructors.
    Bolton, MA Anker Publishing Company.
  • Pierce, William, 2004. Metacognition Study
    Strategies, Monitoring, and Motivation.
  • http//
  • Excellent student reference


Follow-up Activity Using Cognitive Science
Findings in Our Teaching
  • Select a course you are teaching (or have taught,
    or may teach in the future)
  • Describe one strategy you can use to teach
    students how to learn the course material
  • Write one metacognitive student learning outcome
    for your course and describe a strategy you will
    use to help students achieve the outcome