171: Assessing Metacognition (1 of 4)





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  1. Focused Autobiographical Sketches
    • Description
      • Students write a 1 to 2 page autobiographical sketch about a past successful learning experience that may be relevant to a current course
    • Purpose
      • Can help teachers set realistic executives and objectives based on knowledge of students
      • Provides starting line info on how to assess learning
      • Build feelings of self efficacy associated with a course
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Find an element of learning experiences to focus on that relates to course goals and objectives.
      • Can limit still further by limiting the life areas (personal, work, academic) and time periods autobiographical sketches can be drawn from.
      • Determine criteria that will be used to assess the sketches.  Make sure prompt will direct students to create sketches that relate to assessment criteria.
      • Design a prompt that ties to focus & assessment criteria of assignment.
      • Assign prompt to students.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Scan responses and read for stories that relate to course goals.  Try to notice stories and lessons that can be shared to give students advice on how to succeed in the course.
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to explain why they deemed their experiences to be successful.
      • After trust is established, ask students to write a Focused Autobiographic Sketch about lessons learned from personal failures.
      • Ask students to focus on story from the point of view of someone else involved.
    • Pros
      • Focused prompts give teachers info on students that’s more relevant to the course than general background statements.
      • Give info on range of past learning experiences and self awareness of students.
    • Cons
      • No simple guidelines for assessing the quality of this assessment.
      • Reading and analyzing sketches takes a lot of time.
    • Caveats
      • Students may need coaching on writing self-reflective prose before this assessment can yield good information.
      • Some students may balk at sharing their stories, even if done anonymously.
  2. Interest / Knowledge / Skills Checklists
    • Description
      • Students respond to checklists to communicate their interests and levels of related skills
    • Purpose
      • Inform teachers of students’ interest in course-related topics and students’ levels of related skills
      • Teachers can use data above to adjust syllabi
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Divide a paper into two columns.  On one column list course topics.  On other column list related skills.
      • Come up with a simple form that will help you code students’ answers.  Examples:  use checklist with Likert scale response per item
      • Let students know why you are gathering data on their interests and skills.  Can keep surveys anonymous.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Can generate bar graphs that show average Likert responses per item.
      • If the surveys are submitted via Google form these bar charts can be created in Google spreadsheets
      • Share interesting data trends and features with students
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to explain why they are interested (not interested in) top (bottom) 3 topics
      • Use a graphic display to show overlap between student interests and course goals
    • Pros
      • Gives teachers access to data that helps with course planning
      • Teacher can compare students’ self perceived competencies with his or her own observations
      • Having students be explicit about their interests and skills and how they relate to the course will help them be more self-aware
    • Cons
      • Sizable front end investment to create checklists and analysis tools
      • Results may show that students’ interests do not align well with current course goals
    • Caveats
      • Students may lack interest in topics due to ignorance.  They may develop an interest when they learn more.
      • Assessments may be more a measure of self-confidence than prior learning.


Getting to know students is a key step in building positive relationships with students that can promote deeper learning.  The strategies above can help teachers harvest information on students’ habits, motivations, interests and skills.  Teachers who use this data to improve their course design are more likely to create and facilitate engaging projects for students.


Preparation Steps
  • Determine what you would like to learn about your students as learners – what information could help you design better projects and interventions?
  • Decide which format (Focused Autobiographical Sketch or Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklists) will more readily yield the information you want.
  • Design prompts or forms that go with the selected strategy.
  • Decide how you will analyze the data gathered by the selected strategy.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Explain why you want students to complete the selected assessment.  Explain how it will inform your teaching and course design.
  • Give students time to complete the assessment – in class or out of class.
  • Analyze patterns and trends in students’ responses.
  • Share interesting stories, patterns and trends with students and explain how these connect to course goals.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Let students complete assessment at the start and beginning of the course to see if habits, skills, and/or interests change.
  • Try out one of the extension ideas described above.



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