Improving college students’ self-knowledge through engagement in a learning frameworks course

Stano, Nancy Kathleen
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This study tested hypotheses about the accuracy of students’ strategic learning self-assessments using a sample of students enrolled in an undergraduate learning frameworks course at a highly competitive research institution. Previous studies demonstrated that learning frameworks courses significantly improve grade point averages, semester-to-semester retention rates, and graduate rates (Weinstein et al., 1997; Weinstein, 1994). Less is known, however, about changes that happen during the semester. Researchers have found that students tend to overestimate their academic abilities (Miller & Geraci, 2011), but that improving participant skill levels increases their ability to recognize the limitations of their abilities (Kruger & Dunning, 2009). This study built on the existing learning frameworks and calibration literatures and addressed the following research questions: Does students’ calibration accuracy improve from the beginning to the end of a semester-long strategic learning course (a type of learning frameworks course)? Does generation status influence calibration? What is the relationship between an individual’s theory of intelligence and their strategic learning calibration? And, is there a relationship between accurate self-assessment and demographic factors such as family income and ethnicity? The methods used in this study included self and objective assessments of strategic learning for 10 learning factors known to impact student success. Based on the Model of Strategic Learning (Weinstein, Acee, Jung, & Dearman, 2009), these 10 factors were assessed by the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory, 2nd Edition (LASSI) (Weinstein & Palmer, 2002). I used mixed ANOVA and regression analyses to identify how accurate students were at the beginning of the semester, how accurate they were at the end of the semester, if this difference was significant, and if other factors – a student’s theory of intelligence, parental education level, family income, and ethnicity – were related to the accuracy of these self assessments. I was particularly interested in the extent to which the least strategic students became more accurate in their self-assessments. Overall, three key findings emerged from the current study: 1) Students’ initial self-assessments were inaccurate and, for the most part, students overestimated their actual strategic learning capabilities, 2) self-assessments are amenable to change and accuracy can improve within a learning frameworks course, even among the least strategic learners in this sample, and 3) parental education level was associated with actual level of strategic learning for some factors at the beginning of the semester, but by the end of the semester, it was no longer a significant predictor. The relationship between the accuracy of student’s self assessments and selected personal demographic factors (income and ethnicity) and their theory of intelligence were mixed.