Over the weekend, I processed the second set of metacognitive activities. First, the statistics: A couple of students fewer did the interactive quizzes this time, but the difference is not large enough to draw any conclusions. (Two students fewer completed all the quizzes; Two students more completed some, but not all.) The abstract activities were more promising. You may recall that about 37% submitted the first meta. For meta 2 it was 50%. Fifteen students who didn’t do meta 1 submitted meta 2. Seven who submitted meta 1 didn’t submit meta 2. (I’m not sure why that is; I will ask.) Still the net gain was substantive, so I’m hopeful that more students are buying into the program.
Two students submitted meta2’s which appeared to involve little effort; Rather, it looked like they were just trying to get the credit. I will monitor their submissions in the future and if necessary, tell them I am prepared to deny them credit for future submissions that don’t seem to include genuine work.
Now let’s consider the substance of the assignment. The students correctly identified what I consider to be the major items for this topic. However, many didn’t put them in the right category of concept, fact or finding, or theory. Additionally, most students didn’t adequately explain their choices, and a few didn’t even try.
I realize these choices involve a certain degree of subjectivity, and it isn’t cognitively trivial. But at the same time, I don’t have a strong sense of why most students made the choices they did, either in terms of judging an item to be major, or in choosing where to catalog it.
Is this a fine point? I don’t think so. The whole point of metacognition is to think about what you’re doing. If you think about it, you’re less likely to make choices at random. I want my students to think about the economics they’re studying enough to be able to explain their thinking. Since being able to place a piece of data properly in a disciplinary framework is the mark of an expert, I think this is worth pursuing.
A related note: When I went over the first meta activity, I missed an opportunity to exploit a teachable moment. I spent so much time talking about what I learned from the reviewing their responses, how to better define the assignment, etc. that I didn’t have much time to discuss the answers. I did little more than present the consensus answers (vetted by me).
This time I took a stab at having the class develop the answers, explaining why they chose what they chose. I started the discussion by asking if Topic 2 (Theory of Supply and Demand) was primarily about concepts, institutions, or theories? Yes, I know this is a “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” question, but it gave students another, more concrete way to deconstruct the material. Okay, given that this material was primarily theoretical, what were the major theories? [ANS: Supply, demand, and combining them to obtain market equilibrium] What were the details of the theories? What were the major facts and findings from this material? [ANS: Law of Supply, Law of Demand. Price controls have unintended side effects.] Finally, what major concepts haven’t we adequately discussed? [ ANS: Shortages, Surpluses, plus what we’d already discussed.]