Metacognition:the Importance of Thinking About How We Learn

Andrea A. Curico, Todd Jones & Tanya M. Washington, Does Practice Make Perfect? An Examination of the Impact of Practice Essays On Essay Exam Performance, 35 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 271 (2008).

The recently published Best Practices and Carnegie Foundation studies challenge the legal academy to examine how we educate potential lawyers. This article builds upon those studies by developing a cost-effective, duplicable empirical model that academics can use to measure the impact of various suggested teaching methodology improvements. Using that model, the article discusses the authors’ findings that, on average, first-year Civil Procedure law students who completed five practice essay writing exercises and received generalized postexercise feedback had higher raw scores on their Civil Procedure final essay exam questions than those who did not have the writing assignments. It also discusses the initially surprising findings that the most statistically significant benefit from the practice and feedback inured to students with above-the-median LSAT scores and above-the-median undergraduate GPAs and that the practice exercises had no impact upon students’ grades in other courses. The article discusses how these findings fit into the existing literature from other disciplines. It also explores how students’ metacognitive skills may have influenced the study’s outcome. The article discusses how the incorporation of metacognitive skills training into the practice review sessions might result in a more across-the-board benefit from the exercises. It concludes with suggestions for future studies and for improving the original empirical model.

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