Metacognitive Teaching Strategies: Helping Students Learn how to Learn

Session 3: Community of Scholarly Teaching Practice (CoSTP), Fall, 2013

Perhaps the most popular of the fall CoSTP sessions, Metacognitive Teaching Strategies: Helping Students Learn How to Learn generated two engaging discussions related to topics inherent to helping students learn how to learn.    A relatively new research area for post-secondary educators to sink their teeth into, metacognition is foundational in that it considers how the brain learns best, and then applies that knowledge to teaching and learning approaches.

For this third session, we collected and distributed six resources on this topic including videos, short web page summaries and two research articles.  When we sent out these resources, we encouraged participants to consider what strategies they might include in their teaching to improve student learning.  The resources are listed below:

TedX: Dr. Derek Cabrera: How Thinking Works
16 minute video
Dr. Derek Cabrera is an internationally recognized expert in metacognition (thinking about thinking), epistemology (the study of knowledge), human and organizational learning, and education. He completed his PhD and post-doctoral studies at Cornell University, served as faculty at Cornell and as a researcher at the Santa Fe Institute. He leads the Cabrera Research Lab, is the author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a US patent. Derek discovered DSRP Theory and in this talk he explains its benefits and the imperative for making it part of every students’ life.
Video Link:

Seven Principles of Learning
1 page web page summary
Carnegie Melon University, Researchers
Website – Principles of Learning:
From the book “How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching

4 screens of a webpage
Nancy Chick, Centre for Teaching, Assistant Director, Vanderbilt University
An outstanding article covering the following two parts, summarizing research in the field of metacognition and how you can put the research into practice in your own classroom.
Thinking About One’s Thinking:
Putting Metacognition into Practice:

Teaching Metacognition
Marsha C Lovett, Associate Research Professor
One of the top gurus when it comes to talking about how to teach metacognitive strategies to students. (She’s really good!)
Educause Learning Initiative 2008 Annual Meeting

Transparency in Teaching: Faculty Share Data and Improve Students’ Learning
6 screens of a journal article (Mary-Ann Winkelmes)
Superb work done on being more open with students about learning and the significant data that results from student learning when this is done
Liberal Education, Spring 2013, Vol. 99, No. 2

5 part video series, each about 7 minutes long

Stephen Chew, Psychology Professor, Samford University. Geared for students but highly informative for faculty. Frequently viewed set of videos that get positive results from many in field (full of research, valuable tips and easy to follow videos)


Not so surprisingly, many CoSTP participants noted the usefulness of sharing some of these resources with their students.  In particular, a few faculty participants had even passed on the Stephen Chew videos to their students and were quick to point out how appreciative students were to get them.  Some students commented that having the videos sooner would have been even more useful.  Perhaps we should have made metacognition the first topic of the term!  The discussion on both dates focused mostly on how to encourage students to reflect on their learning, and the ways in which instructors can incorporate strategies into their lessons and their courses that encourage students to think about how they are learning.  Clearly, many instructors were doing this, but hadn’t framed it as teaching for metacogntion.  Participants shared a variety of tips and ways in which they can encourage students to think about their learning, and create learning plans for reaching their goals.  Participants of the session seemed to leave wanting more, encouraging us to continue to find ways to work metacognition into our various programs and offerings.