Colleges talk process of ‘learning to learn’

A study suggested a relation between self-awareness and educational success.
Sophomore Alex Baumhardt works on homework at the Lakota Coffee Company on Thursday. A new study supported by the Teagle Foundation says students who understand how information is given and processed are more likely to study effectively.

Pencils, pads and notebooks, watch out. Students may be able to take control of their studies with "metacognition," according to several Midwest colleges and their faculties.

Metacognition is a new way to help students become more self-aware and self-efficient in how they learn, study and take tests.

Metacognition, or the process of learning how to learn, has become a topic of discussion at a recent conference hosted by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.

The study "Learning to Learn" by Karl Wirth of Macalester College and Dexter Perkins of the University of North Dakota is one of the leading studies of this connection between the brain and education.

Wirth and Perkins' analysis essentially proves if students know exactly how they learn, analyze and respond to information, they can potentially improve their educational career and future.

The results of the metacognitive experiments, while not conclusive about whether metacognition is successful, were definitely suggestive. The results implied a correlation between students' educational self-awareness and success.

The first ACM conference regarding education was conducted in 2008, where the concept of metacognition was introduced. The ACM Teagle Collegium project was subsequently formed from 15 faculty members of 12 ACM colleges to delve into this new psychoanalysis of learning.

The Teagle Foundation, a strong supporter of liberal arts colleges across the country, funded the project. The foundation was a large supporter of the conference and of metacognition. They have helped other colleges around the country in similar endeavors.

ACM Vice President John Ottenhoff said the Teagle Foundation wanted four things from educational faculties: to study new cerebral research, to test these theories in classrooms, to document how and if students learn better, and to spread the word.

Biologically, metacognition in animals can be seen through "memory tasks," which basically help animals know if they know something or if they don't, according to Kristen Bonnie, a biological psychologist at Beloit College in Wisconsin.

To experiment with metacognition, the faculty members of the ACM Teague Collegium gave various exploratory tests to students in different college courses.

Test wrappers, reviews of tests given to students immediately after exams, were given to students. The test wrappers gauge students' opinions on how they thought they performed. Cumulative and non-cumulative tests and weekend "knowledge surveys" were also given.

Biologist Tim Tibbetts of Monmouth College, in his experimental conclusion, stated using metacognition with his students has given him a new language to use when talking to students about their learning.

The results of the experiments collected between 2009 and 2010 were released at the second and final conference last fall and suggested a strong correlation between the student's knowledge of his or her mental capabilities and their education.

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