The Power of Metacognition: High Impact Strategies for Teaching and Learning
Purpose: Physical therapy students face many challenges during the transition from undergraduate to professional education, including difficulty managing the volume and intensity of new knowledge and applying knowledge to clinical practice. Recent evidence on neuroplasticity and learning indicates that strategies such as re-reading, highlighting, typing notes, blocked study times, and limited sleep impair learning.1 In contrast, active reading, generating stories and diagrams, taking notes by hand, varying study topics, using flashcards, and teaching the material to others have been shown to improve retention and retrieval.1 Metacognitive strategies, i.e., teaching students to think about their thinking and monitor their processing, can effectively improve learning and students’ confidence in their learning ability.1-3 The purpose of this presentation is to share a multifaceted programmatic approach emphasizing teaching, learning, and metacognitive strategies that improve learning. Description: The multifaceted approach in our DPT Program included five elements: 1) Faculty participated in a professional development session based on the McGuire text, “Teaching Students to Learn;” 2) Newly admitted DPT students were required to read, “Make it Stick: the Science of Successful Learning,” prior to orientation; 3) Orientation activities were modified to include practice of metacognitive strategies such as retrieval practice, active reading, learning in context, teaching others to cement learning, taking notes by hand, cognitive maps, and mental models; 4) Faculty modified the way they distributed course notes/handouts to methods that require active note-taking and retrieval practices;5 and 5) Reflection on learning strategies became an integral part of faculty advising, instructor feedback, and discussions with the program director. Summary of Use: This multifaceted approach was incrementally developed over two years. Preliminary findings indicate that almost 50% of DPT students have engaged in new learning strategies, despite research indicating that most students are resistant to changing their study habits.2 Seventy percent of faculty have modified their course notes and course feedback, and a faculty advising form was developed to track students use of new learning strategies. Many students do not consider changing their learning strategies until they have identified an internal need to change such as anxiety or depression, test failure, or receiving a midterm course grade warning. Several faculty follow McGuire’s3 recommendation to develop a portfolio of “before and after scores” showing how other students have benefitted from metacognitive approaches to learning. Importance to Members: Embedding metacognitive strategies from orientation through the curriculum is a powerful way to impact teaching and learning. A multifaceted approach addressing different stakeholders (students, instructors, faculty advisors, program director) has helped drive this effort. Research is needed to capture the change in student learning skills and outcomes linked to metacognition.