The Academically Gag Inducing Problem
Recently, in my educational psychology class, I overheard two students talking about how they were right-brain thinkers (i.e., are holistic thinkers, problem solve using intuition, creative, etc.).
Two weeks later, I heard my one of my developmental research methods students say, “I think the best way to study is to use color-coded highlighters” followed by “It also helps me on tests when I listen to lectures because I am an auditory learner.”
In all three of these instances, I had this involuntary gag reflex (not joking and I am thankful my students weren’t looking at me) because I was so astonished that these well-documented psychological myths had been publicly denounced and yet students (psychology students no less) still whole-heartedly believed in them.
The inner-researcher in me just couldn’t take it anymore. As an educational psychologist who studies metacognition, I instantly thought that these cringe-worthy comments had to do with lack of metacognition, but most of the research on susceptibility to myths had to do with—what were the myths, how prevalent were they—and very few researchers focused on the source of why students and even the general public were seduced into believing in these myths?
Therefore, to answer this question, my students and I set out to investigate if metacognition may play an integral role in understanding why we “drink-the-Koolaid” of psychological myths.
One Potential Answer to the Question
We gave over 300 undergraduate freshman a 65-item psychological and educational misconceptions inventory that were pooled from several studies (e.g., Amsel et al., 2009; Standing & Huber, 2003). We assessed metacognitive beliefs using the Need for Cognition Scale (NCS; Cacioppo, Petty, Feinstein, & Jarvis, 1996), the Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (MAI; Schraw & Dennison, 1994), the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ; Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991), and the Memory for Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (MSEQ; Berry, West, & Dennehy, 1989).
All the above measures were self-reported measures of metacognition. We included one direct measure of metacognition, that is calibration (Schraw, Kuch, Gutierrez, & Richmond, 2014). Calibration is the degree to which learners understand what they know and what they do not know. We used these variables to predict how susceptible students were to believe in these beliefs.
Is Metacognition the Great Equalizer?
We found that metacognitive variables were highly predictive of student’s susceptibility to believing in educational and psychological misconceptions (Richmond et al., 2015). Up to 45% of the variance of the susceptibility to myths was explained by metacognition variables. Interestingly, the most powerful predictor (over 26%) was the student’s actual measure of metacognition (e.g., calibration as measured through gamma).the more accurate students were at knowing when they knew or did not know something, the less they believed in misconceptions - Aaron Richmond, PhD Click To Tweet
Meaning, the more accurate students were at knowing when they knew or did not know something (i.e., calibration), the less they believed in misconceptions. Also, when students had higher scores on need for cognition, they had more advanced beliefs on how to regulate cognition, stronger self-efficacy for learning preferences and control of learning beliefs, the less susceptible they were to believe in these pervasive misconceptions.
Well Great, What Do We Do Now?
The answer to this question lies within the metacognition research. The most important question is: How can we teach our students to calibrate?
In other words, how do we teach our students when to recognize what they know and what they don’t know? This is a question long studied in the metacognition research realm and my good friend and colleague Chris Was at Kent State University has developed some interesting ways to increase students’ calibration. Specifically, he has conducted several (both laboratory and ecologically valid) experiments which center on the use of weighted assessments (Foster, Was, Dunlosky, & Isaacson, 2017; Hartwig, Was, Isaacson, & Dunlosky, 2012; Was, Beziat, & Isaacson, 2013) as a means to provide personal feedback to students (that they own).
As illustrated in the Figure below, students are presented with a quiz, based on their calibration (whether they believe they know it or not), they are allowed to give more points (weight) to the questions they thought they knew the correct answer to and fewer points (weight) to the questions they feel like they do not know.
Quiz 5: The format of this quiz allows you to increase the value of the questions you are sure of and decrease the value of those you are unsure of. To do this, choose 3 questions to be Light-Weight (worth 2 points each) and 4 questions you think should be Heavy-Weight (worth 4 points) by writing your answer in either the Light-Weight or Heavy-Weight column. Be sure to indicate whether you know the answer or not.
Do you know it?
Yes or No
When Celeste was unable to obtain her regular supply of heroin, she began to develop pain and an intense craving for the drug. Celeste was experiencing symptoms of
The simultaneous processing of information at both conscious and unconscious levels is called
a. the cocktail party effect.
b. the pop-out phenomenon.
c. dual processing.
d. selective attention.
After each quiz, instructors or teaching assistants (TAs) can debrief with each student (obviously most instructors can’t do this every quiz) to discuss why they thought they knew or did not know each answer. In this discussion, the TA or instructor specifically discusses three questions:
- Why do you think you were right (on questions they got wrong which is overconfidence)?
- Why do you think you were wrong (on questions they got right, which is underconfidence)? and
- How can you improve your study skills? In Dr. Was’ studies, they do this several times over the course of the semester.
The Metacognitive Take Home Message
First, my students and I think that understanding the role metacognition has in conceptual development (both inaccurate and accurate) is the first step in solving the susceptibility to psychological myths problem.
Second, if metacognition has such a huge impact on susceptibility to believing in these myths, teachers should stress the importance of metacognitive development and teach how to improve student metacognition. As such, our students will have more accurate conceptual development.
Finally, if metacognition is such a key player in this problem, far more researchers and teachers need to create effective interventions to raise the metacognitive levels of our students. I hope you will join us in this last endeavor.
Amsel, E., Johnston, A., Alvarado, E., Kettering, J., Rankin, L., & Ward, M. (2009). The effect of perspective on misconceptions in psychology: A test of conceptual change theory. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 36(4), 289-295.
Berry, J. M., West, R. L. & Dennehey, D. M. (1989). Reliability and validity of the Memory Self-Efficacy Questionnaire. Developmental Psychology, 25, 701-713. doi:10.1037/0012-16188.8.131.521
Foster, N. L., Was, C. A., Dunlosky, J., & Isaacson, R. M. (2017). Even after thirteen class exams, students are still overconfident: the role of memory for past exam performance in student predictions. Metacognition and Learning, 12, 1-19.
Hartwig, M. K., Was, C. A., Isaacson, R. M., & Dunlosky, J. (2012). General knowledge monitoring as a predictor of in‐class exam performance. British Journal of Educational
Pintrich, P. R., Smith. D. A., Garcia, T., & McKeachie. W. (1991) A manual for the use of the motivated strategies for learning questionnaire. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.
Richmond, A. S., Rauer, H. M., & Klein, E. (2015). How does metacognition predict beliefs in psychological and educational misconceptions? The Researcher, 27, 20-24. Retrieved from http://www.nrmera.org/PDF/Researcher/Richmond.et.al.2015.Vol27.Issue1.pdf
Schraw, G., & Dennison, R. S. (1994). Assessing metacognitive awareness. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 19, 460-475. doi:10.1006/ceps.1994.1033
Schraw, G., Kuch, F., Gutierrez, A. P., & Richmond, A. S. (2014). Exploring a three-level model of calibration accuracy. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(4), 1192.
Standing, L. G., & Huber, H. (2003). Do psychology courses reduce beliefs in psychological myths? Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 31, 585-585. doi:10.2224/sbp.2003.31.6.585
Was, C. A., Beziat, T. L., & Isaacson, R. M. (2013). Improving metacognition in a college classroom: Does enough practice work?. Journal of Research in Education, 23, 77-93.