2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM


KRAFT, Katrien J., Physical Science Department, Mesa Community College, 1833 W. Southern Ave, Mesa, AZ 85202 and MCDOUGALL, Jim, Science Division, Tacoma Community College, 6501 South 19th Street, Tacoma, WA 98466, k.kraft@mail.mc.maricopa.edu

A key principle of student learning involves reflection of ones own learning, known as metacognition. While metacognition is a skill commonly applied in psychology and other social science courses, it has not been greatly emphasized in the geosciences (especially at the introductory level). Studies have shown that students benefit from regular examination of their learning process resulting in an ability to take control of their learning (How Students Learn, National Academy Press, 2005). We incorporate metacognition into our introductory geoscience courses because, while we recognize that many of our students will not become majors, it is important for them to develop the skills to critically evaluate scientific ideas. By teaching metacognitive skills, we provide the skill for the students to monitor their own understanding of course material. Our results demonstrate preliminary success for student learning.

In our introductory geoscience courses, we cultivate the reflective process regularly during the term with direct oral and written feedback from class participants. In one class, students recorded their learning process and wrote a reflection paper at the end of the term by reviewing their weekly responses to set questions (for example, “What was particularly helpful in class today? What was fuzzy or unclear?”). In another course, students were interviewed during the term using questions that helped them to identify concepts and methods that emerged as helpful for them. For example, a student might compare diagnostic work in mineral identification with the association of symptoms and medical treatments.

Particularly revealing elements from assessment include reflections from students on how they tackled problems in their emerging work in geology and how they might apply these methods in their lives outside their geology courses. For example, one student recognized that working with other classmates was a particularly helpful method of learning for her. For students just beginning their higher education process, these skills can be invaluable tools for success in future classes and as informed citizens. From a teaching perspective, we have had the added benefit of identifying important cognitive aspects of geoscience teaching and learning that resonate with students.