June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Educational Research and Methods
Motivation and Background: Engineering education commits to foster graduates to be well-prepared engineers. An important quality of successful engineers is metacognitive skills (Rhem, 2013). Metacognition is simply defined as “thinking about thinking” or “cognition about cognition”. It is awareness of one’s learning processes and regulation of learning behaviors (Flavell, 1979). Metacognitive skills include understanding knowledge about cognition and regulation of cognition, which are considered as significant differences between novices and experts in engineering practice (Schraw, 1998; Ross et al., 2005). Engineering students who master metacognitive skills are capable of reflecting on the process of learning, improving the ability of problem-solving, and situating learning outcomes within diverse contexts (Chopra, Shankar & Kummamuru, 2013). Compared to traditional engineering education curricula, experiences with informal learning activities provide students authentic work environments. Students may apply metacognitive skills within an informal learning environment. However, the research about metacognition in such environments is nascent. Therefore, it is important to study whether informal learning experiences facilitate application of metacognitive skills in engineering students.
Methods: This qualitative study investigated the specific metacognitive skills engineering students showed in their participation in informal engineering learning events, such as engineering competitions. Data were collected from 47 participants by individual interviews and focus group interviews. Interviews were transcribed and coded (Saldana, 2016). By utilizing Schraw’s conclusive work about metacognition (1998) as a theoretical framework, interview transcripts were coded when engineering students described behaviors or cognitions related to knowledge about cognition, such as declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and conditional knowledge, as well as behaviors of regulation of cognition, such as planning, information management strategies, comprehension monitoring, debugging strategies, and evaluation in their experience in any types of informal learning activities.
Results: Preliminary results demonstrated that in the experiences of informal learning activities, engineering students showed metacognitive awareness of their learning process. They also demonstrated their understanding about metacognitive knowledge and abilities of metacognitive regulation in practice.
Implications: Different from the traditional lecture-based engineering education, the informal learning activities in this study provided students with authentic practice environments. Their learning experiences were active and student-centered. Engineering students have more agency in developing their metacognitive skills. As an important quality of successful engineers, metacognitive skills equip students to be aware of and assess their own learning processes, regulate learning behaviors, and improve their learning outcomes, and eventually situate learned knowledge and skills into various contexts. Fostering engineering students as metacognitive learners is important for modern engineering education. It will increase possibilities of cultivating well-prepared engineers.
Xu, X., & Bland, L. C., & Kusano, S. M., & Johri, A. (2017, June), The Development of Engineering Students' Metacognitive Skills in Informal Engineering Learning Activities Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28959
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