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Issue 1, 2014
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Characterizing illusions of competence in introductory chemistry students

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The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias that plagues a particular population of students – the unskilled. This population suffers from illusory competence, as determined by inaccurate ratings of their own ability/performance. These mistakenly high self-ratings (i.e. “illusions of competence”) are typically explained by a metacognitive deficiency of the unskilled – they simply can't recognize their own mistakes. This work, involving more than a thousand students, nine course sections, and sampling multiple time points over a semester, established the Dunning–Kruger effect as a robust phenomenon in university-level introductory chemistry. Using a combination of graphical analyses and hierarchical linear modeling, we confirmed that low-performing students tend to overestimate their own performance while high-performing students tend to underestimate their performance. We also observed a clear difference between female and male students with regard to these miscalibrations. Lastly, we demonstrated that student miscalibrations are invariant over time, a result that has profound implications for the types of instructor feedback conventionally provided in introductory chemistry courses.

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Article information

13 Aug 2013
13 Oct 2013
First published
14 Oct 2013

Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2014,15, 24-34
Article type

Characterizing illusions of competence in introductory chemistry students

S. Pazicni and C. F. Bauer, Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., 2014, 15, 24
DOI: 10.1039/C3RP00106G

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