I realized what I was doing was not working: the influence of explicit teaching of metacognition on students’ study strategies in a general chemistry I course†
Many students transitioning from high school to college are faced with challenges of getting acclimated to college life and managing their time and heavy course load that is cognitively demanding. Students planning to major in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs in the United States are mostly required to enroll in general chemistry courses as prerequisites. Unfortunately, these courses are among the STEM gateway courses in which many first-year students struggle to get through, or are weeded out. This is partly due to the use of ineffective study strategies that require more than rote memorization, a common learning approach in high schools. One way to prepare first-year college students for STEM trajectories is by teaching them metacognitive strategies early in their study programs to enable early adoption and sustainability of metacognition knowledge and metacognition regulation skills as they progress to the advanced courses. While a handful of studies have investigated study strategies among students in the general chemistry courses as well as the impact of metacognitive activities on student performance in chemistry, very few in-depth qualitative studies investigating the influence of explicit teaching of metacognition on students’ study strategies have been reported. Using open-ended questionnaires, this unique study investigated general chemistry students’ study strategies that they employed prior to a 50 minute metacognition lesson; strategies they reported to have gained from the instruction; and the influence of the metacognition instruction on students’ study strategies and performance in the final exam. Findings indicated more reported use of rote memorization over higher-order study strategies prior to the metacognition instruction, but more reported gains on higher-order study strategies and fewer strategies related to rote memorization immediately after the metacognition instruction. Furthermore, 67% reported a positive influence of the metacognition instruction on study strategies, with 7% lower DFs in the final exam compared to those who reported ‘no influence’. Findings revealed that most general chemistry students were unaware of effective study strategies; thus, there is a critical need to explicitly teach students in general chemistry courses metacognitive strategies.