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Is Metacognition Enough? Comparing Two Workshop Interventions in College Biology

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Background. College introductory biology places high expectations on the quality and quantity of learning (Yazedjian et al., 2008). There has been a growing focus on developing metacognitive abilities to support success in college science courses (Dye & Stanton, 2017; Sebesta & Speth, 2017; Stanton et al., 2015). Workshop-style metacognition interventions can make a positive impact on academic outcomes (Hoffmann & McGuire, 2010; McGuire, 2015), yet an emphasis on metacognition alone may be incomplete. Although metacognition is an important component of self-regulated learning, it is just one of the areas that effective learners regulate; other areas include motivation, behavior, and context (Kim et al., 2020; Panadero, 2017). Engaging in effective time management invokes a fuller range of self-regulatory processes, as it involves devoting time and effort toward academic work, managing distractions in the environment, and generating the motivation not to procrastinate (Claessens et al., 2007; Wolters & Brady, 2020). Prior research on academic workshops suggests their academic benefits, but the studies also have shortcomings such as no pre-test strategy/belief measures or lack of a comparison group (Cook et al., 2013; Zhao et al., 2014).

Aims & Methods. In this study, a team of researchers and educators from a student learning center and life sciences education center collaborated to design and compare two workshop-style interventions delivered in an undergraduate biology class. Because embedding learning strategy training within a specific context may lead to deeper understanding of the target strategy (Hattie & Donoghue, 2016), both workshops took place in students’ regularly scheduled laboratory class soon after students had received their first exam results. The seventeen laboratory sections were randomly assigned to one of two workshop interventions. The baseline workshop (“Metacognition,” n = 133) taught students about metacognitive learning strategies, while the extended workshop added content on time management and procrastination (“Metacognition+TM,” n = 116). All participating students also completed a pre-survey (prior to intervention) and post-survey (end of semester) that included self-reported measures of academic beliefs and strategies (e.g., Davidson et al., 2009). Students’ demographics (see Table 1), academic backgrounds, and grades were gathered from university records.

Findings. Using an SEM residualized change approach that included academic, demographic, and pre-test covariates, we found statistically significant differences in students’ exam scores and pre-post levels of self-reported commitment toward earning a college degree, with greater increases for students who participated in the Metacognition+TM workshop (see Table 2). In addition, race/ethnicity moderated the effect of the intervention, with the Metacognition+TM intervention being especially effective in increasing the self-reported use of time management tools by students from minoritized groups (see Table 3 and Figure 1).

Significance. The study provides evidence of the academic value of teaching college students how to regulate their learning, particularly the aspects associated with time management. Our discussion of implications will address the need for further research that includes additional assessments of students’ strategies, as well as instructional practices that approach study strategies from the perspective of creating equity and fostering inclusion (Asai, 2020; Matthews & López, 2020).

Additional Information

Georgia Southern University faculty member, Anna Brady co-presented Is Metacognition Enough? Comparing Two Workshop Interventions in College Biology in the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 2022.


Annual Meeting of The American Educational Research Association


San Diego, CA