Cultivating Reflective Thinking: The Effects of a Reflective Thinking Tool on Learners' Learning Performance and Metacognitive Awareness in the Context of On-line Learning

Open Access
Kim, Younghoon
Graduate Program:
Instructional Systems
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 17, 2005
Committee Members:
  • Barbara L Grabowski, Committee Chair
  • Kyle Leonard Peck, Committee Member
  • Francis M Dwyer Jr., Committee Member
  • Rayne Audrey Sperling, Committee Member
  • Learning tool
  • Reflective thinking
  • Metacognition
The purpose of the study was to explore the effects of using a reflective thinking tool designed to prompt students to think reflectively about their learning goals, motivation, understanding, learning strategies, and interaction with peers and instructors on students¡¯ learning performance and metacognitive awareness in an on-line learning context. Specially, this study investigated 1) if the use of a reflective thinking tool was effective in enhancing students¡¯ learning performance and metacognitive awareness, 2) if there was any difference in learning performance and metacognitive awareness by level of students¡¯ reflective thinking, and 3) how the students perceived the reflective thinking tool in its use for their learning. Two research studies were conducted. Study 1 used a cohort research design in an agricultural business management course in a land-grant university in the northeastern United States. Thirty seven college students who received the treatment, an on-line reflective thinking tool, for two weeks in a course of the 2003 Fall semester were compared with a cohort group of 50 students who did not receive the treatment in the previous semester. Also, the learning performance and pre and post metacognitive awareness of the 37 participants in the treatment group was analyzed by level of reflective thinking. Study 2 was carried out with college students in a statistics course that provided both a classroom-based and an on-line learning environment. Students in the treatment group (N=84) used a reflective thinking tool during the two-week study, whereas students in the control group (N=73) only wrote an essay about what they learned without the help of the reflection tool. The two groups were compared in terms of their learning performance. Also, students¡¯ performance and metacognitive awareness in the treatment group were compared with respect to the level of their reflective thinking. The results of study 1 and 2 showed a significant difference in problem solving performance between those who used an online reflective tool and those in the control group who did not. However, there was no significant difference between the treatment and the control group on comprehension. These findings indicate that the reflective thinking activity may be effective for problem solving, but not for comprehension. From the analysis of learning performance by level of students¡¯ reflective thinking, the results from study 1 and 2 do not support the hypothesis that students who have a higher level of reflective thinking will perform better than those who have a lower level of reflective thinking on their learning performance because of inconsistent results between the two studies. Both study 1 and 2 showed that students¡¯ metacognitive awareness was significantly enhanced by the activity of reflective thinking. Finally, the results of this study indicate that students who have a higher level of reflective thinking show a higher regulation of cognition. However, the relationship between reflective thinking and the component of knowledge about cognition was not significant.