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Think at GC: The Metacognition Project

Georgetown College QEP - Development of the Plan

Building from key indicators in two of Georgetown College's strategic plans - "A Beacon to Guide: 2015 - 2020" and the interim strategic plan of the college for 2021 - 2023, that set ambitious goals in the areas of increasing retention and graduation rates and working to improve teaching support for faculty, the QEP began development in the summer of 2019. Over the course of the fall 2019 semester, ideas for the upcoming QEP were solicited by the provost's office. With the idea of creating a new Teaching & Learning Center at Georgetown in its early stages, there was interest in how the two projects could align. While the formation of the TLC was considered too broad of an undertaking for an effective QEP, it was obvious it would become the home for the plan. An interruption of the process caused by the COVID-19 pandemic impeded the College's progress on selecting a topic and delayed the final selection until later in the spring of 2020. After the faculty were surveyed, it was clear there was a continued interest in focusing on resilience and growth mindset. However, with a belief that growth mindset is already emphasized in elementary and secondary educational systems in the area, metacognition seemed to be a more targeted concept that would affect both of these areas. After approval from the faculty and staff for this modified topic, the College's Board assented to the QEP in July 2022 and the college moved into the next phase.

At the start of Fall 2020, Dr. Tracy Livingston was appointed chair of the QEP Development Committee. This committee was tasked to develop a student success focused QEP to promote and engrain metacognition on the Georgetown campus. Working with Dr. Allen, Dr. Livingston identified ten members of the campus community to serve on the committee, representing the three stakeholder groups that would be involved in the plan: faculty, staff, and students. This QEP Development Committee first met in October 2020 to begin the discussions of the initial plan and how to develop the topic of metacognition into a QEP. After the initial phase where committee members researched the topic and summarized sources, and identified that through metacognitive awareness and growth, students would have more control over their learning, which would, ultimately, lead to an increase in retention, persistence, and graduation rates at the institution.

Following this initial research, the topic was presented to each of the five academic divisions (Social Science, Natural Science, Professional Studies, Humanities, and Fine Arts) for their information and feedback. All academic divisions were supportive of the idea. Yet, the committee did not have any data on the strength of existing metacognitive knowledge and skills among the faculty, staff, and students at Georgetown. To gather this baseline data, in February 2021, the committee administered two surveys - one for faculty and staff, one for students - to assess their metacognitive awareness and belief in the need for development of related skills and practices. Using the Metacognition Awareness Inventory (MAI), the committee saw a good response rate from all constituencies. Results can be seen in the tables below.

QEP Faculty/Staff Survey - February 2021 Results
  • 113 participants divided between faculty and staff
  • 45% described Georgetown's current commitment to metacognition as somewhat (20%) or moderately (25%) important
  • 82% described metacognitive skills as very (41%) or extremely (41%) important
  • 82% indicated they somewhat (13%), agree (37%), or strongly (32%) agree that focusing on metacognitive skills is valuable to improve student success.


QEP Student Survey - February 2021 Results
  • 338 participants (55% freshmen)
  • Initial review showed that students had moderate levels of metacognitive knowledge
  • 72% had either never heard the term (46%) or had heard it, but did not understand its meaning (26%)
  • Majority of students assessed their metacognition level as slightly high (38%) or neither high or low/unsure (25%)
  • 73% described metacognitive skills as very (44%) or extremely (29%) important
  • 90% agreed that focusing on students' metacognitive skills is a valuable plan to improve student success


In view of the survey results, other research affirming the value of metacognition, and positive feedback from the entire college community, the committee decided to develop a QEP plan focused on enhancing students' metacognitive knowledges and practices as a way to enhance student success, with the goal of increased retention, persistence, and graduation rates. 

With this focus in place, in February 2021, the faculty, Executive Cabinet, and the Board of Trustees affirmed the idea of the QEP with the following description:

In the midst of the world-wide crisis of 2020, students, staff, and faculty have been reminded that adaptability and resilience are essential to success. Research on instructional strategies has identified metacognition, or thinking about one's thinking, as an effective strategy to promote student learning, with particular emphasis on adapting learning across contexts. Metacognitive awareness includes knowledge about cognition (e.g., "I know what kind of information is most important to learn") as well as regulation of cognition (e.g., "I create my own examples to make information more meaningful"). Metacognitive practice also promotes a growth mindset, which is the belief in one's ability to adapt and grow. 

As we look to design a QEP for launch in Fall 2022, we want to make sure that future Georgetown students are able to have the resilience to adapt and grow to meet whatever challenges arise in our rapidly-changing world. Particularly, for the first-generation students, but also for all students who suffer from anxiety or doubt about their readiness for college, fostering metacognitive skills will improve coping skills, academic success, and persistence. 

Thus, for our QEP plan, we propose that our new Teaching and Learning Center focus (for its first major project) on developing a metacognitive approach to academic skill development for Georgetown College undergraduate students, with a particular emphasis on foundational development of students in their first year.