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Continuing to Promote Metacognitive Awareness in a First-year Learning Strategies Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

The Best of First-year Programs Division

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First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Laurel Whisler Clemson University

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Laurel Whisler is Assistant Director and Coordinator of Course Support Programs in Clemson University’s Westmoreland Academic Success Program. In this capacity, she provides vision and direction for the Tutoring and Peer-Assisted Learning (PAL) programs and provides support to the General Engineering Learning Community. She is also co-developer of Entangled Learning, a framework of rigorously-documented, self-directed collaborative learning. She has an M.A. in Music from The Pennsylvania State University and an M.L.S. from Indiana University.

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Abigail T. Stephan Clemson University

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Abby is a doctoral student in the Learning Sciences program at Clemson University. Broadly, her research interests include intergenerational learning in informal settings, self-directed learning, and cultural influences on the learning process. Abby currently works as a graduate assistant for the General Engineering Learning Community (GELC), a program that supports first-year engineering students in their development of self-regulation and time management skills, effective learning strategies, and positive habits of mind.

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Elizabeth Anne Stephan Clemson University

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Dr. Elizabeth Stephan is the Director of Academics for the General Engineering Program at Clemson University. She holds a B.S. and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Akron. Since 2002, she has taught, developed, and and now coordinates the first-year curriculum. As the lead author of the "Thinking Like an Engineer" textbook, currently in its 4th edition, she has been the primary author team–member in charge of the development of the MyEngineeringLab system.

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This complete, evidence-based paper builds upon our previous work [1] in developing a learning strategies course for first-year Engineering students. Revisions to the course include improvements in scaffolding metacognitive development and engaging students in professional practices to develop learning capacity and career competency. The students in the cohorted PROGRAM at UNIVERSITY consist of entering first-year students who are underprepared for success in Calculus I. Members of the cohort complete one of two approaches to Calculus readiness. One subset of students are enrolled in a year-long sequence that consists of a two-semester approach to Calculus I. The other subset of students complete an engineering math course in the fall semester prior to enrolling in Calculus I in the spring semester. All members of the cohort are co-enrolled in STEM courses that are prerequisites for changing from General Engineering into their engineering major of choice. Additionally, the students are enrolled in a 2-credit learning strategies course focused on the development of personal and professional strategies relevant to academic success.

The pedagogical model for the learning strategies course is Entangled Learning [2], which proposes an iterative cycle of activity in four areas that supports individual and collaborative self-directed learning and metacognitive processes. First, learners reflect on and document their values, purpose, and meaning for learning in a particular domain, as well as their initial knowledge and skills. Second, learners identify what they want or need to learn, how they will proceed with their learning, and how they will evaluate their learning. Third, learners engage in individual and collaborative learning through participation in a community of practice [3]. The fourth area is to apply learning in personal and group practices with an iterative cycle of quality improvement [4]. Having completed one course through the cycle, learners reflect on and synthesize their knowledge through contemplation and practices involved in curating their learning narrative in an ePortfolio [5]. As a pedagogy, the model outlines a process for instructors to use when shaping the course so that assignments move students through the cycle. For students, the model presents a structure they can use to scaffold their independent learning in the future [6].

After evaluating student and instructor feedback over the past two years, the course was redesigned to have a more streamlined and scaffolded approach to developing student metacognition and engagement in professional practices for the Fall 2019 iteration. An intentional, evidence-based approach to students’ selection of learning and wellness strategies for peer sharing presentations was implemented. Peer sharing of learning strategies conveyed course content quickly without need for instructor lectures [7]. The journal assignments were restructured and simplified to put more emphasis on evaluating the learning process and engaging in reflective practice. In-class study group time was given increased structure for the processes of planning and evaluating the group’s learning. Professional practices used by industry, such as after-action reviews [8], [9] and meeting facilitation [10] used in industry were integrated into course activities and assignments. Greater integration was achieved with the Skillful Learning model of metacognition throughout the course and journal activities [1, 11]. A program goal is to engage students with resources provided by the UNIVERSITY Academic Success Center, so participation in peer-assisted learning, tutoring, MATHLab, and evening coaching hours is a required component of the course. Undergraduate peers serve as academic coaches, embedded in the course. They provide assistance during in-class activities and share their experiences as a near peer. The coaches also facilitate sessions two evenings a week. One session is for less-structured collaborative learning. The second session offers practice quizzes, an evidence-based learning strategy to improve retention [12].

This paper outlines the revisions to the course design, and presents an analysis of first-year general engineering students’ ability to engage in professional practices to promote metacognitive awareness. Analysis of qualitative data from Fall 2019 assignments and comparison of results from Fall 2017 and Fall 2018 will inform a discussion of the effectiveness of our approach.

Whisler, L., & Stephan, A. T., & Stephan, E. A. (2020, June), Continuing to Promote Metacognitive Awareness in a First-year Learning Strategies Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34331

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