Collaborative Proposal: Structured Use of Metacognitive Activities in a Flipped Undergraduate Engine

Renee Clark
Research Assistant Professor & Director of Assessment
University of Pittsburgh

Use of Metacognitive Skills Instruction and Repeated Reflection in a Fluid Mechanics Course to Enhance OutcomesNeed: When students repeatedly reflect on their learning, academic practices, and performance, it can enhance their metacognitive ability, including self-regulatory skills such as planning, monitoring, and evaluating one’s learning and performance. Metacognition is described as “knowing about one’s knowing” or “thinking about one’s thinking.” In a Fluid Mechanics course for undergraduates at a large southeastern university, in-class problem-solving in a flipped classroom was coupled with intentional metacognitive skills instruction to support the problem solving. Students also reflected in writing weekly to enhance their metacognitive skills. Their reflections focused on planning, monitoring, and evaluation related to their problem solving. Guiding Questions: The research questions guiding this work are as follows: 1) What themes are present in students’ weekly reflections about their in-class problem solving in an engineering course?2) To what degree does intentional metacognitive instruction and repeated reflection impact engineering student outcomes?Outcomes: Students exhibited consistent and earnest participation in the weekly reflections. A structured content analysis of the reflections by two analysts suggested the development of self-regulatory and self-managing behaviors for academic and problem-solving pursuits. Particular recurring and prevalent themes in the reflections were indicative of this, including students’ recognition of the importance of 1) Practice, 2) Preparation, 3) Carefulness, Organization & Diligence, and 4) Independent Effort and Critical Thought. Coding results from a subset of the reflections covering planning, monitoring, and evaluating will be presented to demonstrate the recurring themes and evidence of the development and reinforcement of self-regulating behaviors for academic self-management.To enable a comparison, a flipped classroom without the metacognitive instruction and repeated reflection was implemented during a different semester in the course. A statistical analysis was done to compare the two cohorts in terms of final exam scores. A separate analysis was completed for the multiple choice versus free response questions on the final exam. A statistically and practically-significant difference between the two cohorts was found with the free-response scores in favor of the cohort that had received the metacognitive instruction and weekly reflection questions (p < 0.0005; d = 0.97). With the free-response exam questions, students had to demonstrate their problem-solving processes, which were a key component of the metacognitive skills instruction and weekly reflection questions. Broader Impacts: The development of metacognitive skills has broad impacts for lifelong learning and the ability to manage new professional challenges. Unfortunately, reflection and metacognitive skills development are not typical components of engineering course curriculums. This IUSE study raises awareness of the importance and benefits of reflection and metacognitive support to promote these practices more widely in engineering education.


Renee M. Clark, University of Pittsburgh; Autar Kaw, University of South Florida; Rasim Guldiken, University of South Florida