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MC Lab Projects

My research program has focused on understanding three inter-related components of self-regulated learning:  (1) monitoring of learning, (2) control of study time, and (3) the application of strategies during learning. These three components of learning fall under the rubric of metacognition, which concerns people’s cognition (or beliefs) about their cognitions. By studying metacognition in students across the lifespan, a major goal of all facets of my research involves developing techniques to improve student learning and achievement across multiple domains.

Both accurate monitoring of learning and adaptive control of learning are critical for efficient learning. For instance, consider two students who are studying for an upcoming exam of Foreign-language vocabulary. One student cannot discriminate between items he has learned and those he has not learned—i.e., the accuracy of his monitoring is poor. Another student is very good at discriminating between items she has learned and those she has not—the accuracy of her monitoring is excellent. The latter student can be much more efficient than the former, because she will be able to focus restudy on just the vocabulary she does not already know.  However, if that same individual used her accurate monitoring to control learning by restudying only the most well-learned items, she would also be inefficient.  In this case, she would not be adaptively controlling her learning. The idea here is simply that accurate monitoring and adaptive use of that monitoring to guide—or to control—the allocation of study time is critical for efficient learning. Control also involves the strategies people use to learn and comprehend new materials, which can have a major influence on learning outcomes.  Some simple strategies involve self testing and rereading—both of which can enhance student learning.  

On-going projects

On-going projects focus on a variety of issues pertaining to self-regulated learning across the life span. The projects not only are aimed at pushing the boundaries of theory but also apply this theory to improving people's learning. Currently, research focusing on middle-school students is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Katherine Rawson and research involving oler adults is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Chris Hertzog. Graduate students are involve in almost every aspect of this research.

gradresearchHere is just a sample of our current projects:

How can we improve students learning of core concepts in the classroom?
Along with Dr. Katherine Rawson, I have been conducting research with middle-school students to evaluate the degree to which successive relearning (i.e., a form of self-testing with spaced practice) can improve their learning and achievement. This research represents just one of several on-going projects aimed at improving student achievement in K-12 and in college.

How can we improve student learning of math and their overall achievement?
Along with Dr. Rawson, Dr. Chris Was (Educational Psych), and Dr. Andew Tonge (Math Department), we have been investigating factors that predict students' success in progressing through remedial mathematics courses at Kent State. Another line of work (along with Dr. Nathan Foster, post-doc student) focuses on examining the efficacy of cognitive technoques for improving students' math learning.

Improving the efficiency and durability of middle-school students' learning.
We are developing new techniques to help middle-school students evaluate how well they have learned important class content. We then use their accurate self evaluations to schedule retrieval practice (with feedback) that is expected to produce long-term retention. See Dunlosky, Rawson, & Middleton (2005) for one technique to improve judgment accuracy.

How do students monitor their learning and what leads to metacognitive illusions?
Along with Michael Mueller and Dr. Uma Tauber (now at Texas Christian University), I have been investigating the psychological bases of metacognitive illusions. For instance, students mistakenly believe that their memory is better when they study words in larger font size (48 point font) than a smaller font size (18 point font), even though font size does not influence memory. Our research is revealing why students fall prey to this (and other) illusions.

Why do the unskilled appear unaware?
Often, students who underperform also are overconfident in their performance - that is, they are unskilled and unaware. Research with Dr. Marissa Hartwig (now at Tennesse Tech University) has shown that unskilled students are often aware of their learning deficits, and as important, has provided insight into why learners of all abilities are overconfident in their learning?