The teacher helps students apply metacognition to their learning.

Many of our students come to us underprepared for college or stuck in unhelpful study beliefs and habits. Spending small amounts of time talking about metacognition – how students understand their own learning – can make a huge difference in their learning and performance (McGuire, 2022).  

Saundra McGuire offers helpful supplements in her book, Teach Students How to Learn, that are free and available to anyone. Among her suggestions are to: 

  • Talk with students about Bloom’s Taxonomy, and how it relates to your course. 
  • Instruct students to pay attention to how information is organized 
    • Pay attention to how the syllabus is organized 
    • Look over the headings in the book chapter before reading, then read thoughtfully, taking away the main idea of each paragraph.  
  • Instruct students to use the study cycle: 
    • Preview ideas/text before class 
    • Go to class, ask questions, and take good notes 
    • Review notes as soon as possible after class 
    • Study in 3-5 short intense sessions every day (e.g., 5 minutes with flashcards) 
      • Do a little homework at a time
      • Cramming before the test does NOT result in long term learning
    • Assess your learning and understanding of the material 
  • Instruct students to teach the material/mini-lectures to another person, pet, stuffed animal, etc. We learn best by teaching material, staying in “learn mode,” not “study mode.” 
  • Ask students to solve problems without looking at the solution 
  • Ask students to memorize everything they’re told to memorize 
  • Instruct students to take advantage of office hours and study groups 
  • Instruct students to aim for 100% understanding 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers additional strategies that can be useful to students: 

  • Use your syllabus as a roadmap 

    • Why is it arranged this way? 

    • What are key themes? 

  • Summon your prior knowledge  

    • What do you already know about this? 

  • Think aloud and use writing 

    • Verbalizing thoughts aloud and in writing can aid deep learning 

  • Ask yourself metacognition questions, e.g.: 

    • What strategy did I use that was helpful? 

    • What is confusing about this topic? 

    • What conclusions can I make? 

    • How does this relate to what we learned last week? 

  • Organize your thoughts 

  • Take notes from memory 

    • Read short sections of text and write down what you remember 

  • Review your exams 

    • Your preparation, what you missed, and why 

  • Test yourself 

    • Practice tests, flashcards, etc. 

  • Use the student learning center