Friday, October 7, 2016

Using Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Performance, Part Two: Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning.

Louis Schulze has another post in his series on improving student performance:

Using Cognitive Psychology to Improve Student Performance, Part Two: Metacognition and Self-Regulated Learning.  Excerpts:

"It’s not a surprise, then, that one study showed that law students, despite their high intelligence, generally do not start law school with strong metacognitive skills."

"As a result, many students enter law school ready for their professors not only to teach them law but also to police their learning process."

"The broadest definition of metacognition derives from its origins in epistemology. There, metacognition is the process of knowing that one knows. More narrowly, according to Beran, et al (2012) in the field of cognitive science, metacognition is monitoring and regulating the internal process of cognition. The commonly used phrase is “thinking about thinking.” In educational psychology, the emphasis is on monitoring and questioning one’s learning with the purpose of improving the result of the learning task; “do I really get it, and if not what should I do about?” A recent study found that students with higher incoming indicators improved performance better after formative assessment than others, and the authors theorized that those students’ stronger metacognitive skills explained that difference."

"[O]ne can think of self-regulated learning as actualizing metacognition."

"Importantly, SRL necessitates that students own the learning and not outsource that responsibility to others."

"I counsel my 1Ls to take three additional steps at the end of each week. First: Synthesize. In this step, students need to synthesize the law fully by using their reading notes, class notes, and whatever hornbooks are appropriate."

"Second: Outline. Here, students should memorialize their synthesized knowledge immediately. Thanks to the “forgetting effect,” at the end of a given week students know much more about that week’s doctrine than they will know even just a few days later. As such, they should memorialize this knowledge at the time when it’s at its peak."

"Third: Objective Self-Testing. After synthesizing and memorializing, students should objectively test themselves on their learning. Using multiple-choice questions, CALIs, Examples & Explanations problems, or any other method of questioning, students should prove to themselves that they successfully synthesized the law in the previous steps. If they find weaknesses, they should return to the step one and sure up their knowledge."

"Not only does this approach benefit students in law school and on the bar exam, it also makes them better lawyers. While other new associates need handholding and feedback from senior associates and partners, self-regulated learners can better monitor their own knowledge and performance."

All excellent advice.  The comments are worth reading, too.  Professor Schulze replies to one skeptic, "In other words, these aren't students who shouldn't be in law school; they just need to change their learning in a big way."  He continues, "When I recommend methods to them that are WAY outside what their colleagues are doing, I can back it up with science and not anecdote."

(Scott Fruehwald)

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