Learning to Learn: a Metacognitive Approach to Class Piano Instruction
Published online: 15 November 2022
- Issue: Volume 62, No.2
- DOI: https://doi.org/10.18177/sym.2022.62.sr.11563
The current preliminary study examines the impact of a pedagogical approach that integrated metacognitive checklists, practice logs, and metacognitive scaffolding on students’ regulatory behavior, motivation, and performance. A total of 104 students participated in the study across three conditions: control (n = 31), metacognitive prompt (n = 35), and webbook + metacognitive prompt (n = 38). The data for this study were online self-report questionnaires and student grades collected across three semesters of a college-level introductory piano classroom. Findings suggest a relatively small impact of the use of a metacognitive framework on student perceptions of regulation, motivation, and outcomes. No significant differences were found between control and experimental conditions for student self-report measures of their metacognitive ability as well as motivational constructs of cost and maintained interest. However, there were some group differences observed in descriptive findings relating to students' perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials in facilitating regulatory behaviors. Further, it appears that the experimental conditions had a positive impact on changes in emotional cost (feeling of frustration, stress, or anxiety) across the semester. When examining course outcomes, the webbook + metacognitive prompt condition was shown to outperform the baseline condition in two of the three course quizzes.
James A. Grymes
Dan Spencer, Department of Digital Education and Learning Technology Applications, North Carolina State University
Olga Kleiankina, Department of Music, North Carolina State University
Caitlin McKeown, Department of Digital Education and Learning Technology Applications, North Carolina State University
David Tredwell, Department of Digital Education and Learning Technology Applications, North Carolina State University
Rebeca Calderon Lima, Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, North Carolina State University
Dan Spencer https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8162-6974
We have no known conflict of interest to disclose
Learning to Learn: A Metacognitive Approach to Class Piano Instruction
The act of learning to play a musical piece is a complex process, involving several layers of planning and decision making as well as requiring the control of cognitive, emotional, and motivational aspects of learning (Concina, 2019). As a result, it is critical that music education develops students into autonomous learners that can balance their efforts, thoughts, and feelings as they learn (McPherson et al., 2019).
Traditional music education pedagogy focusing on performance outcomes is being replaced with approaches that emphasize the examination of students' learning experience and practice (Concina, 2019). This shift has also coincided with research efforts to understand musical expertise, including the creative and cognitive actions individuals engage in during performance and practice. In particular, this focus on the process of learning and practice has supported the growth in research and discussion surrounding metacognition and self-regulated learning (Araujo, 2016; Benton, 2013; Bathgate et al., 2011; Miksza, 2012; Nielsen, 2001), with several studies coming to a similar conclusion that “the success of music learners on all levels from beginner through professional is built on [metacognition] and self-regulation” (Benton, 2013, p. 35). The current paper intends to expand on the current literature through its exploration of the implementation of a metacognitive framework in an introductory music classroom.
Generally defined as “thinking about thinking”, metacognition is considered a fundamental cognitive ability for achieving expert levels of musicianship (Araujo, 2016; Benton, 2013; Hart, 2014). Metacognition is seen as encompassing not only students' knowledge about cognitive processes and strategies, but also their ability to effectively select and apply learning strategies, as well as evaluate their practice and performance outcomes (Concina, 2019; Nielsen, 1999). As a concept, metacognition is not new to the field of music education, with researchers identifying as early as 1989 that learners use metacognition while performing, creating, and listening to music (Pogonowski, 1989). Researchers have even argued that the development of metacognitive skills may be more vital in music compared to other academic disciplines based on the large amount of learning taking place outside of the classroom requiring increased initiative on the part of the student (Benton, 2013).
Students exhibit elements of metacognition when they show understanding of time and resources, set appropriate goals by focusing on particular elements of a musical piece, as well as successfully search for and apply strategies to their environment (Benton, 2014; Concina, 2019). In the context of musical practice and performance, three dimensions have been proposed when conceptualizing metacognition: 1) self-regulation, 2) self-reflection, and 3) self-evaluation (Benton, 2014; Concina, 2019). Self-regulation focuses on in-practice monitoring, involving individuals actively guiding their own practice or performance (e.g., when experiencing a challenge during playing, setting a plan or selecting strategies to overcome the challenge). In contrast, self-reflection and self-evaluation occur directly following practice. Self-reflection encompasses individuals thinking about the cognitive processes they employed during practice or performance (e.g., did the use of a certain learning strategy yield positive results?). Self-evaluation entails the identification of the strong points and critical issues following playing (Benton, 2014).
In music classrooms, the application of metacognitive approaches during learning has been linked with increased performance (Colombo & Antonietti, 2017; Concina, 2019; Hallam, 2001; McPherson, 1997; Miksza, 2012), memorization of pieces (Concina, 2019), creativity during playing (Kaufman & Beghetto, 2013), as well as the ability to structure effective practice sessions (Byo & Cassidy, 2008; Colombo & Antonietti, 2017; Concina, 2019; McPherson, 1997; Miksza et al., 2012). Furthermore, expert and novice musicians have been separated by the extent to which they use metacognitive approaches (Hallam, 2001; McPherson & Renwick, 2001; Miksza & Tan, 2015), with experts shown to be able to accurately understand their own knowledge level, assess piece difficulty, and apply relevant strategies during both practice and musical performance (Bathgate et al., 2012; Hallam, 2001; Hart Jr, 2014; McPherson & Renwick, 2001). In contrast, even though some novices may exhibit metacognitive beliefs and understand some metacognitive strategies, they are often unable to organize their metacognitive thinking in order to enhance their performance (Concina, 2019; Hallam, 2001).
Although some research has evidenced musicians to spontaneously use metacognitive approaches (e.g., Colombo & Antonietti, 2017) and observed metacognitive thinking to naturally develop over long periods of time (e.g., Miksza, 2012), most researchers would argue that students do not always use these skills automatically (Hart Jr, 2014) and often forgo metacognitive ways of thinking (Machfauzia & Sittiprapaporn, 2020). Students have been shown to be poor judges of their own performance level without teacher assistance (Bergee & Cecconi-Roberts, 2002), and student self-evaluations have been found to correlate poorly with evaluations made by both peers and faculty (Bergee, 1993; Kostka, 1997). Additionally, students have noted a lack of training of metacognitive strategies in the classroom (Bathgate et al., 2012; Jabusch, 2016). Overall, research investigating the extent to which music educators are teaching metacognition has concluded that music education does little to improve musicians metacognitive practice skills or habits (Hart Jr, 2014; Jabusch, 2016). Based on the lack of metacognitive skill exhibited and deficiencies noted in regard to instruction of metacognition, the current research study focuses on the development and use of a robust metacognitive framework to increase regulatory thinking in novice music students.
Metacognition has great potential for improving student learning, but only a small amount of research has investigated the effectiveness of integrating regular metacognitive practice in classroom instruction on creative outcomes and skill acquisition. Guidance for the promotion of metacognition in the music classroom has centered around a) the creation of opportunities for metacognitive dialogue and b) internalization of its value/importance for music learning. Rather than waiting for students to reach a certain level of technical proficiency before introducing regulation, it has been found that training students to acquire strategic and reflective abilities in tandem with technical aspects of musicianship reinforces the development of music skills (Concina, 2019; Hallam, 2001). Specifically, researchers have suggested using multiple techniques, including instructor questioning that highlights internal thought processes, promotion of self-questioning, examination of students’ practice behaviors, and/or modeling of various practice habits and metacognitive skills for problem-solving (Bathgate et al., 2012; Benton, 2013; Benton, 2014; Concina, 2019; Miksza, 2012). Ultimately, these instructional practices are intended to become more student-driven over time, with students purposefully reflecting and assessing their learning progress and explicitly expressing their cognitive behaviors/approaches to others in the form of think-alouds (Bathgate et al., 2012; Benton, 2013; Hallam, 2001; McPherson & Renwick, 2001).
Results of the small number of studies incorporating metacognitive teaching practices have suggested sufficient levels of efficacy when applying the approach (e.g., Bathgate et al., 2012; Hallam, 2001; Osborne et al., 2020). Nevertheless, based on teachers implementing metacognitive programs developed by researchers, some have argued that some of the prior work in the field lacks ecological validity (Colombo & Antonietti, 2017). The current preliminary study intended to rectify some of these concerns through the inclusion of course instructors in research design and development processes. In line with the aforementioned studies and Schraw’s (1998) framework of metacognition, a pedagogical approach to foster metacognitive strategy use and self-regulatory behaviors was developed for an introductory college-level piano class.
We also aimed to extend the findings of prior research through the expansion of measurement indices into the area of self-regulated learning (SRL). SRL not only encompasses metacognition but also takes into account motivation and behavioral processes, viewing successful regulation of learning as involving a complex interaction between cognition, motivation, and behavior (Benton, 2014; Concina, 2019; McPherson & Renwick, 2001; McPherson & Zimmerman, 2011). While there is a wide body of literature on SRL and metacognition in academic disciplines, and positive relationships have been reported between self-regulation and musical performance (McPherson & McCormick, 2000) as well as time spent practicing (Austin & Berg, 2006; McPherson & McCormick, 1999, 2006; Miksza, 2006), a limited number of studies have been published on SRL and metacognition in musical practice (Jabusch, 2016). In particular, the current study examines student motivation constructs of cost (perspectives of the worthwhileness of time and effort required when engaging in playing/practicing piano; Flake et al., 2015) and maintained interest (development or maintenance of interest in piano playing as the student progresses through a course; Hidi & Renninger, 2006) as well as student perceptions of the ability of instructional materials to actively engage them in course content and regulatory strategy use.
Principally, the preliminary study intended to answer the following research questions:
- How does the use of a metacognitive framework impact students' perceptions of their metacognitive processes and motivation?
- How does the use of a metacognitive framework impact student performance on course related exams?
- How do students differ in their perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials in aiding their learning and scaffolding regulatory processes?
Due to a naturally occurring transition in the sampled course from physical to web-based course materials (in the form of an interactive webbook), we were also able to compare and contrast two approaches to embedding a metacognitive framework in the course for the above research questions.
The current study was conducted in a one credit hour laboratory introductory piano course that meets twice a week for 50 minutes. Two sections (taught by separate instructors) are offered each fall and spring, with a maximum enrollment of 20 students per section. Alongside attending two lab sessions a week, students are expected to practice daily and complete weekly homework. The main assessments in the course (aside from homework) are three quizzes, three composition assignments, and a final examination. Quizzes commonly involved three short exercises tied to the learning objectives (such as technique, keyboard theory, and performance). Composition assignments asked students to compose a piece that contained musical elements covered in the class up to that point. The final examination involved an informal class piano recital of a memorized solo piece. In addition, students were required to attend two musical performances. Prior to the study being conducted, instructors noted that students in the course struggle to plan, monitor, and evaluate their practice/learning outside of the course. The instructors had attempted to use the homework and reflective prompts in the classroom in order to impact the issues relating to students' study habits in previous semesters but still felt there could be improvements made to integrate this approach into classroom materials more effectively.
The current study examines differences between three conditions: 1) control, 2) metacognitive prompt, and 3) metacognitive prompt + webbook. Due to constraints in the number of available course sections in the sampled course and time needed to develop the webbook, conditions were implemented across three semesters (spring 2018, spring 2019, and fall 2019). Instructors worked with the research team to ensure, outside of experimental materials, students had a similar experience between sections/academic years.
Students in the control condition received traditional instruction typical of the course prior to the development of experimental materials. No mention of metacognition, its role in music learning, or metacognitive guidance was given by the instructor. In order to maintain equivalent time on task between conditions, additional components to the course were added, including 1) a list of piano practicing tips, and 2) a practice log. Each element was based on the experimental condition materials, but paired down to exclude metacognitive related language. Specifically, the piano practicing tips provided to students were a general set of technical and creative playing tips that could be used across all tasks. Practice logs were structured so that students indicated the days and time range they expected to practice the assigned homework that week and at the end of the week, provided a description of the days/time they practiced, as well as rated their level of improvement.
Metacognitive prompt condition
The metacognitive prompt condition differed from the control condition through a) its expansion of piano practicing tips into a series of metacognitive checklists, b) the adaptation of practice logs to incorporate a metacognitive framework, and c) modification of scaffolding surrounding homework to promote metacognitive thought. All experimental materials were created collaboratively with the course instructor to ensure they met the needs of the course and its students.
Metacognitive checklists were designed for each type of exercise/task in the course and provided students with examples of multiple strategies they could use during class and practice across five categories: 1) skim, 2) slow down/break down, 3) activate prior knowledge, 4) integrate new and previous skills and knowledge, 5) plan/map out/use diagrams. These categories and strategies were based on Schraw’s (1998) strategy evaluation matrix and regulatory checklist. They were designed to help students improve their knowledge and regulation of cognition by reinforcing the process of setting a goal, planning, monitoring, and evaluating. The checklists were also designed to develop creative thinking through the setting of creative goals for their performance of improvisations, compositions, performance, analysis, and listening. Weekly practice logs were adapted based on prior work by Hart (2014) with the purpose of helping students structure their homework and practice outside of class, reinforce metacognitive and creative strategies from the checklists, and promote students to monitor their progress and practice time. Practice logs required students to set goals, decide what strategies to use, as well as monitor and evaluate their performance at the end of each week. Instructor scaffolding was altered to reinforce to students that each homework was designed to be a reflective assignment that aided their practice time outside of the course, involving them in planning their study time and choosing study strategies to use, monitoring their learning of specified pieces, and evaluating their progress in their learning.
Webbook + metacognitive prompt condition
Students in the webbook + prompt condition experienced the same metacognitive framework used in the prompt only condition as well as identical practice logs and homework. However, the majority of course elements and metacognitive checklists were embedded in an interactive webbook.
The webbook was designed to include elements similar to those in an existing traditional method book, such as exercises, solos, glossary, and text explanations. In addition, the webbook also includes interactive and custom elements, such as video mini-lessons, guided metacognition prompts, interactive reflection questions, annotation and metronome capabilities, customizable views, and automated technical performance feedback. Scaffolding in the webbook was not only provided visually by the layout and format, but also via the technical performance feedback function and integration of metacognitive prompts/reflection in practice and lesson exercises. Each lesson contained multiple exercises for students to practice and apply concepts discussed in the course. Once in a practice session, students were able to gain technical feedback on their playing by connecting a keyboard to their device via MIDI input. This feedback provided students with the overall number of correct notes they played (out of total possible correct notes), number of errors committed, as well as highlighted (on the piece itself) ‘hits’ and ‘misses’ to encourage reflective practice techniques and a more detailed understanding of playing errors. In addition, the use of metacognitive strategies was scaffolded for students during the practice sessions in the webbook (see Appendix A). Practice exercises contained in each lesson listed both the goal as well as potential strategies students could use to help achieve the given goal. When students entered a practice session (and prior to seeing the piece), they were given reflective prompts to help monitor their playing. During the practice session, if they were having difficulties, they could review their goal for the session and were also provided with some example strategies to try. Finally, following the session students were asked to rate how well they did in achieving their goal, record which strategies they used during the session, and reflect on if they could do anything differently next time.
A total of 104 students participated in the study (control condition n = 31, prompt condition n = 35, webbook + prompt condition n = 38). Participants in the control and prompt conditions were sampled during spring 2018 and spring 2019 semesters, with those in the webbook + prompt condition sampled during fall 2019. The overall sample was 50% female, 45.2% male (4.8% missing) and was varied in terms of race/ethnicity (34.62% White, 19.23% Asian, 18.27% Indian, 10.58% Black/African American, 3.85% Hispanic, 8.65% other, 4.8% missing). Students also represented a wide range of academic levels (18.27% freshman, 17.31% sophomore, 14.42% junior, 22.12% senior, 23.08% other, 4.8% missing). The average age of students in the sample was 21.45 years (SD = 3.44).
Student metacognition was measured using an adapted version of the “Metacognitive Self Regulation” scale from the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ; Pintrich et al., 1991). Nine items (see Appendix B) focused on students' self-reported metacognitive behavior during piano playing, including planning (setting goals, analyzing the task, picking strategies), monitoring (tracking strategy use and progress towards a goal), and regulating (refining and adjusting strategy use). Students were required to provide their level of agreement with each item on a scale from 1 (not at all true of me) to 7 (very true of me). The scale was administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester, showing a reasonable level of reliability (Field, 2009) (see Table 1).
In the current study, motivational constructs of cost and maintained interest were measured. Cost refers to student’s perspectives of the worthwhileness of time and effort required when engaging in playing/practicing piano, including its demand on time, loss of other opportunities due to the need to play/practice, as well as stress, frustration, or anxiety when playing/practicing (Flake et al., 2015). Cost was measured using an adapted version of Flake et al. (2015) cost scale at the beginning, middle, and end of the semester. For brevity, 12 original items equally representing each of the four devised subscales (task effort cost, outside effort cost, loss of valued alternatives, & emotional cost) were selected based on their factor loadings reported in Flake et al. (2015). For each item, individuals were asked to rate their level of agreement on a nine-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree). All cost subscales were shown to exhibit an acceptable level of reliability (see Table 1).
Maintained interest refers to the development (or maintenance) of interest in piano playing as the student progresses through the course (Harackiewicz, Durik, Barron, Linnenbrink-Garcia, & Tauer, 2008; Hidi & Renninger, 2006). The current study uses an adaptive version of a nine-item scale developed by Harackiewicz et al. (2008) that assessed students' feelings regarding the course material (e.g., “I think the class activities (improvisation, composition, reading new solos, technique) are very interesting”) on a seven-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all true of me to 7 = very true of me). Interest was measured at the beginning and end of the semester and showed an adequate level of reliability (see Table 1).
Perceptions of instructional materials
Items relating to students' experience and perceptions of the instructional materials were developed by the research team and covered two areas: 1) overall effectiveness, and 2) ability to facilitate self-regulatory behaviors. Four items asked students to rate how effective they thought the materials were in helping them understand and engage in course content, improve their technical skills, and improve their creativity when playing. Students were also asked using seven items to rate how helpful they thought the materials were in helping them engage in reflective/regulatory behaviors of: setting learning goals, planning and using learning strategies, planning and managing study time, seeking learning help, reflecting on learning goals and performance, and adapting learning strategies to meet their goals. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) confirmed that a single factor structure held for both overall effectiveness items and facilitation of self-regulatory behavior items. Due to changes in data collection procedures, perceptions of instructional materials were only collected in 2019 (spring and fall) and therefore data is missing for spring 2018 control and metacognitive prompt groups.
Student performance was measured using scores from the three course quizzes. Content of quizzes for the webbook + metacognitive prompt condition varied slightly from the other conditions due to the inability to use certain materials (e.g., solo pieces) in the webbook for copyright reasons. However, course quizzes were equitable in that they covered similar content areas and required tasks of a comparable level of difficulty. Each quiz began with 2-3 tasks (e.g., sight reading, transposition exercise, harmonization) targeting specific topics taught in previous weeks, followed by students performing a memorized solo piece. Prior to quiz 1, students had covered musical notation, musical phrases and chords, five finger scales, and white-key major positions. Quiz 2 followed content on minor positions, key signature, and harmonic intervals, and by quiz 3 students had covered full major scales C and G, harmonization and playing outside the five-finger positions.
RQ 1: How does the use of a metacognitive framework impact students' metacognitive processes and motivation?
To investigate differences between conditions in self-reported metacognition a 3 (time) x 3 (condition) mixed design ANOVA was run. Data met all the assumptions of the test (e.g., normality, independent samples, homogeneity of variance, and sphericity) (Field, 2009). Bonferroni post hoc tests were run to decompose any significant main effects, comparing all different combinations of the treatment groups (i.e., control vs prompt, control vs webbook, and prompt vs webbook). Bonferroni tests were chosen based on their ability to control for type I error (false positives) and increased statistical power compared to similar tests when the number of comparisons is small (Field, 2009).
Each cost subscale was analyzed separately. Scales of task effort, outside effort, and loss of valued alternatives were examined using 3 (time) x 3 (condition) mixed design ANOVA. Due to violations of sphericity, Greenhouse-Geisser corrections were utilized when reporting test statistics (Field, 2009). Data transformations were also performed for scales of task effort and loss of valued alternatives to meet the assumption of normality. All other test assumptions were met. Bonferroni post hoc tests were run for significant main effects.
The subscale of emotional cost was found to violate the assumption of normality, and attempted data transformations were unsuccessful. Therefore non-parametric tests were performed. Kruskal-Wallis tests were run at each time point to explore differences between conditions, and Wilcoxon signed rank tests were used to explore differences over time for each condition.
When exploring students maintained interest in the course, a 2 (time) x 3 (condition) mixed design ANOVA was conducted. Data transformations were performed in order to conform to the assumption of normality. All other assumptions of the test were met. Bonferroni post hoc tests were run for significant main effects.
RQ 2: How does the use of a metacognitive framework impact student performance on course related exams?
The variable of performance was found to violate the assumption of normality, and data transformations to correct the violation were unsuccessful. Therefore non-parametric tests were utilized. Kruskal-Wallis tests were run for each quiz to explore differences between conditions.
RQ 3: How do students differ in their perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials in aiding student learning and scaffolding regulatory processes?
Due to data not being collected in one of the semesters, sample sizes were extremely small for both control (n = 9) and metacognitive prompt (n= 14) conditions. Based on this discrepancy it was felt that statistical analyses to compare groups were not appropriate. Instead, we utilized descriptive statistics to understand trends and differences in student experiences and perceptions of the instructional materials between conditions.
Metacognition and motivation
Results revealed a non-significant effect of time (F(2, 128) = 2.18, p = .12) and time x condition interaction (F(4, 128) = .97, p = .43). A significant effect of condition (F(1, 64) = 4.67, p = .013, ?2 = .13) was found, with those in the webbook + prompt condition reporting significantly higher levels of metacognition compared to those in the metacognitive prompt condition (p = .014).
Task effort. No significant effect of time (F(1.73, 110.94) = 1.74, p = .19), condition (F(2, 64) = .56, p = .57), or time x condition interaction (F(3.47, 110.94) = 1.27, p = .29) were observed.
Outside effort. No significant effect of condition (F(2, 64) = 1.22, p = .30) or time x condition interaction (F(3.49, 111.80) = .30, p = .86) were observed. Results did reveal a significant effect of time (F(1.74, 111.80) = 7.80, p = .001, ?2 = .11), , with students showing significantly higher levels of cost at the end of the course compared to the beginning (p = .002).
Loss of valued alternatives. No significant effect of condition (F(2, 64) = .06, p = .95) or time x condition interaction (F(3.44, 109.96) = .19, p = .93). However, a significant time effect (F(1.72, 109.96) = 6.38, p = .004, ?2 = .09) was observed. Collapsed across conditions, students showed significantly higher levels of cost at the end of the course compared to the beginning (p = .002).
Emotional cost. No significant differences were observed between groups at beginning (p = .96), middle (p = .92), and end (p = .95) of semester. Students in the control condition did not show any significant changes over time (p > .05). In contrast, those in the metacognitive prompt condition and webbook + prompt condition both showed significantly lower cost at the end of the semester compared to the beginning (metacognitive prompt: z = -2.89, p = .004, r = - .42; webbook + prompt: z = -3.05, p = .002, r = - .44) and middle of the semester (metacognitive prompt: z = -2.59, p = .01, r = - .37; webbook + prompt: z = -2.63, p = .009, r = - .38).
No significant effect of condition (F(2, 67) =.21, p = .81) or time x condition interaction (F(1, 67) = .71, p = .50) were observed. However, a significant effect of time was found (F(1, 67) = 15.96, p < .001, ?2 = .19). Post-hoc tests revealed that, collapsed across conditions, students showed a significant decrease in interest across the semester (p < .001).
A significant effect of condition was exhibited for quiz 1 (H(2) = 22.75, p < .001). Those in the webbook + prompt condition were found to show significantly higher ranks compared to control (U = 168.50, z = -4.80, p < .001) and metacognitive prompt conditions (U = 332.50, z = -3.46, p = .001). No differences were observed between control and metacognitive prompt conditions (U = 426.00, z = -.94, p = .35).
A significant effect of condition was exhibited for quiz 2 (H(2) = 9.82, p = .007). Those in the metacognitive prompt + webbook condition were found to show significantly higher ranks compared to control (U = 254.50, z = -3.28, p = .001). No differences were observed between control and metacognitive prompt conditions (U = 419.00, z = -.81, p = .42) or metacognitive prompt and webbook + prompt conditions (U = 442.50, z = -1.88, p = .06).
No significant condition effect was observed for quiz 3 (H(2) = 1.11, p = .58).
Student experiences & perceptions
Effectiveness of instructional materials
Although student perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials could not be compared statistically, descriptive statistics show some slight differences in mean scores across items (see Figure 1). All groups reported being in the moderately effective (3) to very effective (4) range of the scale. However, both experimental conditions showed slightly higher ratings compared to the control group across items relating to the instructional materials aiding understanding and engagement in course content, improving technical skills, and improving creativity during playing.
Student perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials in learning content and improving technical and creative skills
Webbook/Practice Logs promoting regulatory behavior
Descriptive statistics show some slight differences in mean scores across items (see Figure 2). All groups reported instructional materials as being moderately effective (3) or above for all items relating to the promotion of regulatory behaviors. Based on group means, it appears that those in the control condition viewed their instructional materials as more effective in assisting goal setting and planning compared to the experimental conditions. In contrast, those in the experimental conditions viewed their instructional materials as more effective in promoting help seeking, reflecting on learning goals, analyzing performance, and adapting learning strategy use.
Student perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials in facilitating regulatory behaviors
Discussion and Next Steps
The current preliminary study investigated the implementation of a metacognitive framework in an introductory college level piano classroom. Specifically, we examined the impact of a pedagogical approach that integrated metacognitive checklists, practice logs, and metacognitive scaffolding on students' regulatory behavior, motivation, and performance. Through the inclusion of course instructors in the research design and development of research materials we intended to rectify ecological validity concerns cited in the prior literature (e.g., Colombo & Antonietti, 2017) and expand upon previous efforts to facilitate metacognitive processes in novice music students.
Metacognition and SRL
Based on prior metacognitive intervention studies undertaken in natural classroom settings often not having a direct comparison between experimental and control conditions in regard to measures of metacognition (e.g., Bathgate et al., 2012), our work provides some initial insights into the impact of regulatory based frameworks compared to traditional instruction. Findings in relation to the promotion of regulatory behaviors were mixed. Students across all groups failed to show significant changes in self-reported metacognition across the semester, suggesting that increased exposure to the metacognitive framework as the semester progressed in the experimental conditions did not alter students' judgments of their ability to engage in regulatory behaviors. However, collapsed across the semester, those in the webbook + prompt condition did report significantly higher levels of metacognition compared to those in the metacognitive prompt condition. Although perceptions for the control group were not significantly different from the webbook + prompt condition, they did report numerically lower values of self-reported metacognition. This suggests some small positive effects as a result of students being exposed to metacognitive training packaged in the format of an interactive webbook.
Descriptive findings relating to students' perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials in facilitating regulatory behaviors were also mixed. Those in the control condition viewed their instructional materials as more effective in their ability to assist in goal setting and planning compared to the experimental conditions. In contrast, those in the experimental conditions viewed their materials as more effective in promoting help seeking, reflecting on learning goals, analyzing performance, and adapting learning strategy use. As the strategies and goals were explicitly given to students in the instructional materials for the experimental conditions, it could be argued that this form of external regulation lowered students' perception of their ability to engage in these activities spontaneously/independently. This may also explain why for aspects where students had more agency in their regulation (e.g., help seeking, reflecting on learning goals, analyzing performance, and adapting learning strategy use), more positive perceptions of the effectiveness of the materials were found for the experimental conditions.
Taken together, findings suggest a subtle impact of the use of a metacognitive framework on student perceptions of regulation in an introductory music classroom. However, the lack of pronounced differences in comparison to traditional instruction brings forth its own questions. Findings for the control condition in regards to perceptions of the instructional materials contrast prior work which has shown students to report instruction as not encompassing metacognition (e.g., Bathgate et al., 2012; Jabusch, 2016). One potential explanation for these findings is that the inclusion of piano practicing tips and practice logs for the control condition as a way to maintain equivalent time on task unintentionally promoted regulatory behavior. Although removed of explicit language referring to regulation, it could be argued that students were provided with strategy based knowledge in the form of the practicing tips and limited scaffolding for regulation of time management (a cited component of SRL; Zimmerman, 2000) through the recording of their practice via a log. Combined, these elements could have been enough to inflate student perceptions of how frequently they engaged in regulatory behaviors during the course.
It appears from our initial findings that our pedagogical approach only made a small impact on students' motivation. No significant differences were observed between conditions for each of the four subscales of cost (task effort, outside effort, emotional cost, and loss of valued alternatives) and maintained interest. Furthermore, students across all conditions showed an increase in perceptions of outside effort and loss of valued alternatives, as well as a significant decrease in interest across the semester. Although the finding of decreased motivation is less than optimal, our results are in line with theoretical perspectives on the development of student beliefs. Researchers such as Wigfield et al. (1997) have suggested that a decline in student perspectives of value (including interest and cost) often occurs when students form beliefs about activities with which they have limited prior experience. As students in the sampled course have limited experience taking music courses, the downward trend in cost and interest could be a result of students gaining more knowledge on the topic and developing more realistic estimations of the requirements of piano playing. It should also be noted that even though students' perceptions significantly decreased across the semester, student ratings of motivation were still relatively high, with perceptions of cost at the low end (approximately ranging from 2.4 to 3.7), and interest at the high end (approximately 5.8), of each seven-point scale.
Interestingly, those in the experimental groups showed significantly lower emotional cost (feeling of frustration, stress, or anxiety) at the end of the semester compared to the beginning and middle, with the control group showing no change. As the course material and requirements become more complex as the course progresses, this finding suggests that the metacognitive framework and strategies provided to students helped them mitigate some of the frustration, stress, or anxiety associated with the increased difficulty of content compared to the traditional course format.
Findings for performance again provide mixed results in support of the use of a metacognitive framework. While those in the metacognitive prompt only condition did not significantly differ from control, the webbook + prompt condition was found to outperform the control condition in both quiz 1 and 2. Furthermore, they were also found to outperform those in the metacognitive prompt condition at quiz 1. The results for the webbook + prompt group replicate general findings that metacognitive interventions have a positive effect on student performance (e.g., Bathgate et al., 2012; Hallam, 2001). One potential explanation for the positive findings related to the webbook + prompt condition is that the webbook allowed students access to an increased number of reading and technique drills compared to the other conditions, alongside just-in-time feedback mechanisms and regulatory scaffolding that enabled students to move at their own pace. Combined, these components could have significantly improved students’ effectiveness during independent practice, and as a result, increased their performance on course quizzes.
Limitations and Future Work
There are some limitations with this exploratory work that warrant caution when summarizing our findings and drawing conclusions. First, based on the nature of the course and the number of conditions embedded in the study, analyses are founded on a small number of student responses (< 50 students per condition). Due to this relatively small sample size we would describe findings evidenced in the current study as preliminary, and of need of further investigation to solidify the potential effects of the experimental conditions observed. This is especially relevant for findings related to student perceptions of the effectiveness of instructional materials to facilitate SRL. It is hoped that in future semesters more data can be collected by the research team to add to this preliminary work.
Second, due to the use of self-reported behavior, findings are limited to perceptions of students' own abilities and approach during the course. Although students’ self-reported self-regulation behaviors have been shown to accurately predict (in part) academic achievement (Zimmerman & Kitsantas, 2014), some researchers have argued that they may be limited in their efficacy on account of their reliance on verbal understanding that students may not have due to many strategies in music playing commonly being coded as mental images (Colombo & Antonietti, 2017). It is hoped that in future work, analytics data, in the form of responses to practice logs and interactions with course materials, can be utilized to triangulate students' perception data with actual behaviors in the course itself.
Implications for the classroom
Alongside the discussion of our statistical analyses, we also feel it is important to note the practical implications of engaging in this type of design from the instructor's perspective. Although we acknowledge the institutional resources necessary to create an instructional tool such as a webbook may not be available at all institutions; in terms of instructor labor costs, the implementation of the webbook provided a lower cost compared to other conditions. As noted in previous sections, the webbook allowed students access to an increased number of reading and technique drills compared to the other conditions, alongside just-in-time feedback mechanisms and regulatory scaffolding that allowed students to move at their own pace. This enabled the instructor to focus on instructional goals rather than classroom management or logistics associated with the sharing of experimental materials. Furthermore, the automated prompting of students to engage in regulatory behavior allowed for consistent and even dispersal of metacognitive prompts across content and student learning cycles. Combined, these aspects would make the sharing of our currently built resources easier and less costly, requiring less training for implementation compared to previous approaches and allowing insight into student behaviors via the automated collation of app related data.
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Appendix A- Practice Session Format
Strategies in the Piano+ App
Successful learners in the course commonly spend time before, during, and following practice sessions thinking about the strategies they are using and how successful they were in using them. This course (and the Piano+ app) will also guide you in selecting and monitoring your strategy use. Each session will follow a similar format
Before the session you will be asked to consider your goal (what you want to accomplish) as well as what strategies you could use to achieve it.
During the session you will be encouraged to monitor your progress and ask yourself whether you are achieving your goal? And whether you need to alter any of your chosen strategies?
If you feel you are not achieving your goal and need to alter your chosen strategies, you will also have access to a list of suggested strategies during the session
Following the session you will be asked to reflect on the practice session. Did you achieve your goal? Would you do anything differently next time or when practicing other pieces?
Appendix B - Adapted Measure of Student Metacognition (based Pintrich et al. 1991 Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire)
- When practicing for this course, I set tasks to help focus my practice.
- When I have trouble with something I’m practicing for this class, I go back and try to figure it out.
- If musical pieces are difficult to play, I change the way I practice the piece.
- Before I practice a new musical piece thoroughly, I often skim it to understand the components that make up the piece.
- I ask myself questions to make sure I understand the musical pieces/techniques I have been studying in this class.
- I try to change the way I practice in order to fit the course requirements and the instructor’s playing style.
- When practicing, I try to think through a musical piece/exercise and decide what I am supposed to learn from it rather than just playing it through.
- When practicing for this course I try to determine which aspects of a piece I don’t understand or am not playing well.
- When I practice for this class, I set goals for myself in order to direct my activities in each practice period.
Last modified on Friday, 13/01/2023
Dan Spencer, Olga Kleiankina, Caitlin McKeown, David Tredwell, and Rebeca Calderon Lima
Dan Spencer holds a PhD in Educational Psychology and is a Research Scholar at NC State University. His research centers on improving self-regulation and motivation in individual and collaborative environments, as well as the use of assessment/evaluation data and processes to improve student learning outcomes and perceptions.
Olga Kleiankina, DMA, is the Director of the Piano Program at NC State University. She is the recipient of the NC State University’s 2016 Outstanding Teacher Award and 2020 Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award. An internationally acclaimed pianist, she has presented at National CMS, ATMI, and MTNA Conferences. www.olgakleiankina.com
Caitlin McKeown, PhD, has a broad background in education, music, and instructional design. She is a former K-12 music teacher and has a doctorate in adult education. She has developed numerous online tools, courses, and programs in higher education and is passionate about effective design and creative problem-solving.
David Tredwell is an Interaction Designer / Developer at NC State University, providing perspective on interactive user experiences, creating user interfaces, and programming learning objects for online education. He graduated from NC State in 2007 with a B.S. in Computer Science and a passion in game design and 3D modeling.
Rebeca Calderon Lima is a PhD student in the Educational Psychology program in the College of Education at NC State University. Her research focuses on creative problem solving, metacognition, and design thinking. She is currently working on her dissertation and will be graduating in summer 2022.