Monday, January 16, 2012

Metacognition and American Idol

Welcome to readers who are visiting from my January 18th column in The Chronicle of Higher Education on metacognition, student learning, and American Idol. Below I have listed a few additional resources that were given to me by Stephen Chew, Ph.D. for readers who are interested in learning more about the subject of metacognition and its implications for teaching and learning. Below each resources I have provided a brief summary comment by Prof. Chew.

To start your research, though, I would definitely recommend beginning by watching Chew's entire five-part video series on learning for students or anyone else interested in the topic.

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DePietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

SC: A good overview of cognitive process involved in effective teaching that includes a discussion of metacognition.

Smith, M. K., Wood, W. B., Adams, W. K., Wieman, C., Knight, J. K., Guild N., Su T. T. (2009). Why Peer Discussion Improves Student Performance on In-Class Concept Questions, Science, 323 (5910), 122-124.

SC: An article that demonstrates the effectiveness of ConcepTests.

Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

SC: There are lots of good resources for formative assessment online, but this compilation is a classic.

Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J. M. (2004). Flawed self-assessment implications for health, education, and the workplace. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 69-106.

SC: More on the implications of poor metacognition or self-awareness in education and other contexts.

As a final note, I am always on the lookout for new ideas, people, or programs to recommend to faculty to help us all do our jobs more effectively. If you know of a teaching and learning resource that you believe the world should learn more about, send me an e-mail or post it below and I will consider it for a column.


  1. Hi James,

    I enjoyed reading your article on metacognition, as well as your December columns of the beneficial effects of testing (which you've referred to most recently as "formative assessment"). You might be curious to look into the work of the Roediger Memory Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis (, which has been at the forefront of this area for some time. In particular, a 2012 article by Roediger, Putnam, and Smith describes 10 unique benefits of using assessments in learning -- some which your readers might not be aware of. Other interesting work is being done in the Karpicke lab at Purdue, the lab of Rawson and Dunlosky at Kent State, at UCLA, and more.

  2. Hi Dr. Lang,

    I recently read your article on metacognition and student learning, and I need some clarification. You talk about metacognition in this way: "Cognitive psychologists use the term metacognition to describe our ability to assess our own skills, knowledge, or learning." This isn't necessarily accurate, though. Metacognition, or Metacognitive Awareness, is one's own understanding of his or her cognitive processes (Flavell, 1976), but what you are talking about is calibration.

    Calibration is the "degree to which a person's perception of performance corresponds with his or her actual performance" (Hacker, Bol, & Keenan, 2008). The contestants on American Idol have poor metacognitive awareness, yes, but more importantly you are referring to the inaccuracy of the level of calibration.

    I am currently writing my PhD dissertation on calibration and self-regulation and am fascinated by this topic. However, I thought this issue deserved some clarification.

    Thank you, and I welcome any responses,
    Alan Reid

  3. Hi Dr. Lang,

    I was working on a presentation that included a section on metacognition when I came across your post in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, which led me here.

    You may be interested in a tool my foundation is developing around the idea of increasing students' metacognition through a self selecting web app called the Learner Sketch Tool. We are currently in the rapid prototyping phase and are piloting the tool with 5th graders through college students. You can demo the most current iteration at . Try the demo facility, set up a quick account, go through the tool to the sketch (be sure to scroll down for strategies) and then click on the "Results Page" banner across the top to see how class data might be aggregated for educators' use.

    Ultimately, the tool is designed to both empower students and inform educators using a basic neurodevelopmental framework, with the hope that cognitive differences will be seen as variation, not deviation.

    I would be interested to hear any feedback, ideas, or responses you have.

    Jason Flom