Introductory biology students’ use of enhanced answer keys and reflection questions to engage in metacognition and enhance understanding


Providing feedback to students as they learn to integrate individual concepts into complex systems is an important way to help them to develop robust understanding, but it is challenging in large, undergraduate classes for instructors to provide feedback that is frequent and directed enough to help individual students. Various scaffolds can be used to help students engage in self-regulated learning and generate internal feedback to improve their learning. This study examined the use of enhanced answer keys with added reflection questions and instruction as scaffolds for engaging undergraduate students in self-regulated learning within an introductory biology course. Study findings show that both the enhanced answer keys and reflection questions helped students to engage in metacognition and develop greater understanding of biological concepts. Further, students who received additional instruction on the use of the scaffolds changed how they used them and, by the end of the semester, were using the scaffolds in significantly different ways and showed significantly higher learning gains than students who did not receive the instruction. These findings provide evidence for the benefit of designing scaffolds within biology courses that will support students in engaging in metacognition and enhancing their understanding of biological concepts.

Publication Title

CBE Life Sciences Education