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Prompting students’ metacognition of learning: implementing ‘meta-learning’ tasks in science

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 3:00pm – 3:30pm parallel session



Room 10 – 303-B07 Sem



Dr Kay Colthorpe
University of Queensland, Australia

Tania Sharifirad
University of Queensland, Australia

Dr Louise Ainscough
University of Queensland, Australia

Dr Stephen Anderson
University of Queensland, Australia



To succeed at post-secondary education and become lifelong learners, it is essential that students develop an understanding of their own knowledge and learning processes. This metacognition of learning, or ‘meta-learning’, helps students to become more effective learners, as they become more aware of their self-regulatory processes and recognise the effectiveness of their study strategies (Biggs 1985, Jackson 2004). As such, meta-learning is closely aligned to self-regulation of learning. To increase physiology students’ self-awareness, we designed and implemented meta-learning assessment tasks, incorporating them into course assessment. Each task had 6-8 open-ended questions designed to prompt students to consider their knowledge and to reflect on the effectiveness of their learning processes. The tasks were deployed in series, at strategic time points across the semester, to prompt students to engage in more effective, high quality learning strategies. In this study, we evaluated the impact of these meta-learning assessment tasks using students’ perceptions of the value of those tasks. We also investigated students’ self-regulatory behaviour in two successive courses to identify longitudinal changes in learning strategy use and its impact on academic achievement. Most students (85%) reported that meta-learning tasks had a positive impact on their learning, as they prompted self-regulatory processes of forethought and self-reflection. Students who adapted their strategy use (51%) showed significant (p<0.01) improvement across semesters, increasing their marks on average by almost 5% (Colthorpe et al 2018). These findings suggest that meta-learning tasks may prompt students to become more self-reflective and independent learners, and may enhance the development of lifelong learning skills.



Biggs, J. B. (1985). The role of metalearning in study processes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 55(3):185-212.
Colthorpe, K., Sharifirad, T., Ainscough, L., Anderson, S., & Zimbardi, K. (2018). Prompting undergraduate students’ metacognition of learning: implementing ‘meta-learning’assessment tasks in the biomedical sciences. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(2):272-285.
Jackson, N. (2004). Developing the concept of metalearning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 41(4):391-403.
van der Meer, J., Jansen, E. and Torenbeek, M. (2010). It’s almost a mindset that teachers need to change: first‐year students’ need to be inducted into time management. Studies in Higher Education, 35(7):777-91.


Presentation topic

Students – Learning

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