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Teach Us Teachers

To the Editors:

I read Roald Hoffmann and Saundra McGuire’s Marginalia article “Learning and Teaching Strategies” (September– October) with great interest. But when I read that Professor McGuire had “seen countless students improve their test scores from below 50 to over 90 in a matter of weeks, just by using metacognitive learning strategies” I thought: How can you hold out on us like this? Any approach with such results deserves to be described in detail! Can she suggest places to learn more about these metacognitive strategies—either materials to read, or even better, workshops or people to interact with? I need useful things to say to the struggling students in my first-year biology class.

Max Taub
Southwestern University

Dr. McGuire responds:

In 2001, after 31 years of teaching chemistry without teaching metacognition, I too was amazed to realize that improving student learning could be as straightforward as teaching students how to analyze their own thinking and implement new strategies. Consider the physics student whose score rose from 54 to 91 after she realized she had been laboring on the lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy (memorization) but could work at the higher levels (application and analysis). She also changed her approach to homework by working the problems without using examples as a guide. Here are two metacognitive strategies that we at LSU have found to be most helpful: 1) Instruct students to study their material as if they must teach it; 2) Teach students to focus on the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. After their scores improve, their increased self-confidence leads them to use these strategies more. This, in turn, leads to more improvement and they get hooked. For more information, read William Peirce’s “Metacognition: Study Strategies, Monitoring, and Motivation” ( or visit the Oncourse Workshop ( and the Center for Academic Success (

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