College of Natural and Health Sciences; Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
My dissertation research has been a quest to understand how to improve metacognition development in undergraduate chemistry education. The first step I took in this investigation was to speak with those with the largest influence on an undergraduate chemistry student’s education: the instructors. I interviewed seventeen postsecondary chemistry instructors on their thoughts of metacognition, its importance, their current practices for developing their students’ metacognition, and their suggestions for how to improve metacognition development in undergraduate chemistry education. After conducting a qualitative reflexive thematic analysis of the interview transcripts, I found that many of these instructors valued metacognition and believed it to be important for their students. Some of these instructors were already implementing metacognition development in their courses and had great suggestions for how to improve metacognition development in undergraduate chemistry education. I also found that some of these instructors had little to no knowledge of metacognition before my interview with them, and that with the many responsibilities they already had as lecturers, tenure-track, or tenured professors they felt overwhelmed by the idea of learning enough about metacognition themselves to be able to teach their students about it. After hearing these instructors’ perspectives I concluded that to improve metacognition development in undergraduate chemistry education, awareness and change needs to happen at a departmental level. I also concluded that activities developed with the intent of implicitly or covertly teaching students about metacognition could benefit students of instructors who do not have the time to gain training in educational psychology. The next step in my dissertation research was to develop an activity that could implicitly engage students’ metacognition, which could be easily implemented by those time-strapped instructors. To do this I conducted interviews with twenty-five undergraduate biochemistry students and asked them to solve two buffer problems while thinking aloud. Before they solved the second problem, I asked them questions about how a different student might be led astray in solving the problem. The intent of these questions was to covertly prompt students to think about their own thinking by asking them to think about an “unreflective” or “misguided” student’s thought process, and this idea was inspired by another study which asked students similar questions while they responded to a concept inventory. After qualitatively analyzing the transcripts by a codebook thematic analysis process, I found that the questions I asked did prompt students to be more metacognitive, specifically by prompting their metacognitive skills of monitoring and evaluating. From these results I concluded that these questions could be used as a “covert” activity to encourage students’ to employ their metacognition, and due to their format they can easily be incorporated into existing activities and assignments.
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