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Thinking About Thinking in Study Groups: Studying Engineering Students' Use of Metacognition in Naturalistic Setting
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Metacognition has been identified as a critical skill set for learning in problem solving, conceptual understanding, and studying, all of which are key in any undergraduate engineering curriculum. Though significant research has identified metacognition as critical in learning, most of this research has been conducted in experimental settings and has focused on individual engagement. While experimental settings provide evidence that metacognition is important to learning, these controlled studies do not tell us if students actually engage in metacognition in their own contexts. The purpose of this research study was to describe the metacognitive habits of engineering students in the naturalistic setting of study groups as well as contextual factors that supported this engagement. In order to accomplish this, I developed a methodological approach useful for identifying metacognitive engagement in naturalistic settings. In this ethnographically-inspired qualitative study, I used participant observations as my primary source of data and ethnographic interviews as supplemental data. Three study groups participated in this study and represented a diverse range of strategies for learning and studying. In order to identify the metacognitive behaviors of the study participants, I developed the Naturalistic Observations of Metacognitive Engagement (NOME) coding strategy, a coding scheme that can be used to identify metacognitive engagement in naturalistic settings involving undergraduate engineering students. Through the use of the NOME for coding the observational transcripts, I found that undergraduate engineering students engage in metacognitive engagement in different ways and certain metacognitive behaviors are engaged in at a higher rate than others. From an analysis of the observational fieldnotes, I found that contextual factors such as learning environment, study group schedule, study group purpose, learning resources, and workload potentially impact the way in which engineering students engage in metacognitive practices. The findings of this study provide important implications for researchers in metacognition and engineering education, educational practitioners, students, and the research site and participants from which the data was collected.
- Doctoral Dissertations