Ward, Paul, Ehrlinger, Joyce, Eccles, David W. and Robertson, Stephanie (2010) Skill-Based Differences in Cognition and Metacognition in Advanced Placement Biology. In: Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association, 30th April - 4th May 2010, Denver, Colorado. (Unpublished)

The purpose of this research was to utilize a process-tracing methodology to examine individual differences in cognition and metacognition and their contribution to success in solving Advanced Placement Biology problems. Previous research using cognitive process-tracing methods to examine academic performance has focused primarily on individual differences in thinking, with a view to identifying successful problem solving strategies and/or the underlying knowledge structure (e.g., Chi, Feltovich & Glaser, 1981; Simon & Simon, 1978). Relatively few expertise researchers have been concerned with identifying the metacognitive aspects of thinking during problem solving. Where these researchers have examined metacognition the emphasis has been on assessing or improving the understanding of good and poor learners through the use of self-explanations (e.g., Chi et al., 1994). Researchers of metacognition, on the other hand, have concentrated on assessing the degree to which students have an accurate impression of their level of knowledge and understanding (e.g., metacognitive accuracy), and the extent to which they monitor their understanding (e.g., metacognitive monitoring). The former has been measured mainly through the use of confidence measures and judgments of learning (e.g., Ehrlinger & Dunning, 2003, Koriat, 1993; Metcalfe, 1993), whereas those interested in metacognitive monitoring skill have used self-reports about study strategies in general (e.g., Duncan & McKeachie, 2005; Schraw & Dennison, 1994; Schraw, 1997) rather than methods (e.g., process tracing) that might capture specific metacognitions during learning or on an actual test (cf. Garner, 1988).

The present research attempted to cross this divide by using process-tracing measures to capture skill-based differences in cognition and metacogniton. Specifically, 55 AP and Honors Biology students were assessed on 16 AP-level exam questions. We recorded concurrent verbal reports of thinking during problem solving in an Advanced Placement Biology test, and collected immediate retrospective reports to capture individual differences in metacognitive monitoring on selected questions. In addition, we collected retrospective assessments of confidence after students answered each question to measure metacognitive accuracy. To compare with our process-tracing metrics, self-reports of general metacognitive monitoring (i.e., General Monitoring Strategies Checklist [GMSC], Schraw, 1997) and metacognitive learning strategy (i.e., Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire [MSLQ], Duncan & McKeachie, 2005) were also recorded via questionnaire. However, initial analyses indicate that these data did not predict performance on the AP-level task but self-reports on the GMSC were positively related to metacognitive accuracy�individuals who reported engaging in more monitoring activities were also more likely to be more overconfident. In this symposium we will examine the interrelationship between thinking, monitoring, and metacognitive accuracy and identify the role of these factors in attaining superior performance on the AP-level questions used in this study and on the AP Biology exam. We will also consider the relevance of these results and the associated process-tracing techniques for teaching, training, and improving performance and learning in science.

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