Developing Independent Learners Through Metacognition

Students must be able to direct their own learning to succeed in college, career, and life. As have many researchers studying high school and college populations, I found this capacity lacking in my 11th and 12th grade AP Psychology students.

One recurring piece of evidence was that students regularly construct incomplete mental models, often distracted by superficial elements of examples that instantiate a concept instead of focusing on the core structure underlying the examples.

This impairs effective analogical transfer, which relies on complete mental models. While such distraction betrays the pervasive gap in students’ metacognitive capacities, studies show that metacognition can be learned effectively through explicit teaching. Two metacognitive strategies stand out as successful in inducing mental models and facilitating enduring analogical transfer: similarity identification between analogous examples (SI), and self-explaining the new process as one learns (SE).

In order to address the challenges described above, my intervention sought to combine SI and SE to enable students to develop and maintain mental models and analogical transfer that were both more complete and more enduring. The intervention focused on both applying these two metacognitive strategies as well as teaching students how to use them to help them develop their capacity as independent learners. The results reveal correlations supportive of the belief that both SI and SE facilitate enduring learning, though a small sample size limited the scope of the intervention and warrants further investigation into the strategies’ combination. The analysis also sparked further questions of ways to improve students’ identification of the essential components of their own thoughts and explanations.

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