As a Cognitive Psychologist with a Learning Sciences background, the goal of my research is to make education more equitable by preparing students from various backgrounds to engage in robust learning. To achieve this goal, my work centers around metacognition and motivation. I focus on these two constructs as they are at the core of self-regulated learning; students require both the metacognitive knowledge and skills to effectively learn as well as the motivation to engage in learning. These complementary constructs can be particularly powerful during instances of "failure" or struggle. Students' metacognitive knowledge and skills equip them with ways to improve learning and performance and enable them to recognize when they are not effectively learning. The way students think about their abilities and motives also has a direct impact on their learning trajectories through their persistence and effort. To explore how to foster and measure each construct and understand their relation to each other and self-regulated learning, I use a variety of methods (laboratory studies, classroom interventions and observations) and perspectives (Cognitive, Social, Educational Psychology).

Metacognition and Motivation in Self-Regulated Learning

A deep interest of mine is evaluating theories of self-regulated learning in which metacognition is hypothesized have a relationship with motivation. What motivates a student to learn? Does having knowledge about their cognition and the skills to regulate their knowledge enable them to be more motivated? In my work, I seek to answer these questions and specifically focus on self-efficacy (confidence in one's abilities), achievement goals (reasons for engaging in a task) and recently I have started examining the relation of grit (perseverance of effort and interest in a long-term goal).

For instance, we found that metacognitive intervention integrated within two middle school classrooms resulted in higher endorsements of several types of motivation and higher learning performance on a conceptual assessment and novel learning task in comparison to a control condition (Zepeda, Richey, Ronevich, & Nokes-Malach, 2015). Students in the intervention group also guessed less during a novel learning task. This work suggests that student knowledge and practice of metacognitive skills plays a critical role in several aspects of self-regulated learning.

Metacognitive Supports in Discourse

In a related strand, my research also examines whether specific types of metacognitive supports promote specific aspects of learning. If we can determine which types of metacognitive supports are more critical to certain aspects of learning, then we can improve current methods of instruction. To begin investigating this question, I developed a metacognitive support framework which contains two dimensions, the metacognitive component consisting of the type of metacognitive knowledge and skill, and the delivery component which consists of the different types of manners and frames. In my prior work, I found that researcher-led intervention result in benefits to learning (Zepeda et al., 2015), but does naturally occurring metacognitive supports present in teacher talk relate to increased performance on conceptual learning? Findings from an observational study revealed that they are positively related (Zepeda et al., under review, invited revision). More specifically, classrooms with higher learning growth on a conceptual assessment had more teacher talk supporting personal metacognitive knowledge (e.g., being able to determine what you do and do not know).

Applying Cognitive Principles (that implicitly support student use of metacognition) to Instruction

I also examine the application of other cognitive principles to instructional interventions. Using instructional techniques such as prompting self-explanation, analogical comparison, or retrieval practice provide opportunities for students to engage in metacognition. In a series of classroom experiments, we compared the effect of learning how to spell words with retrieval practice versus rewriting the words (Jones, Wardlow, Pan, Zepeda, Heyman, Dunlosky, & Rickard, 2015). Second and third graders not only learned better with retrieval practice, but the students tended to like and think they learned how to spell more effectively with retrieval practice versus rewriting. In a laboratory study with undergraduates, higher use of self-explanation while learning from worked examples was associated with better transfer performance whereas higher use of analogical comparison was associated with worse learning performance (Richey, Zepeda, & Nokes-Malach, 2015). This work highlights that different instructional processes encourage students to engage in different levels of learning and transfer.

In another project, I examined whether "flipping" a Cognitive Psychology Course resulted in higher performance than the typical version of the course (Nokes, Zepeda, Boden, & Barstow, 2017). When flipping the course, we assigned some lectures as homework and used the in-class time for new activities involving rehearsal practice, self-explanation, and structured inquiry. Students in the flipped version performed better on the final exam than those in the typical version. In my dissertation work, I am using data from the flipped and typical version of the course to determine the different types of metacognitive study strategies and resources students employed to study, how these strategies and resources changed, and their relations to students' motivations and exam performance (see Figure 1 below). Disentangling these different patterns, can reveal whether some types of strategies or resources are related to performance, suggesting a potential area to provide more instructional support.


Investigating the Measures of Metacognitive, Cognitive, and Motivational Constructs

In my research, I use a variety of metacognitive and motivational measures (Likert-scale items, open-ended questions, behavioral data from the course management system, classroom observations) to obtain a more complete picture of how these constructs function. Across the different studies, there tends to be a disconnect between metacognitive Likert-scale questionnaires and other metacognitive measures (e.g., metacognitive judgements, open-ended questions) (Zepeda et al., 2015; Zepeda & Nokes-Malach, 2017; Zepeda & Nokes-Malach, submitted). In related work, we found a disconnect between self-explanation and analogical comparison self-reports and verbal protocols (Zepeda, & Nokes-Malach, 2015). In a different investigation that examined the effect of self-explanation and analogical manipulations, we also found a disconnect between self-report measures and condition assignment (Richey, Zepeda, & Nokes-Malach, 2015). These findings raise questions about the validity of some self-report measures and highlight the need to have multiple converging measures to understand a phenomenon.

Interdisciplinary Perspective

To inform my research, I integrate a variety of perspectives and methodological approaches. Through invigorating collaborations, I have had the opportunity to exchange ideas with researchers from different psychological perspectives (Developmental, Educational, Social), teachers, and researchers from outside of the Psychology in Physics, Biology, and Chemistry. These experiences have allowed me to improve my collaborative skills and project management techniques while also resulting in new ideas and directions. I believe that integrating different perspectives and approaches is critical to informing science and developing applications of my work. I look forward to incorporating an interdisciplinary perspective in my work through collaborations with faculty and students.

Relevant Publications

Zepeda, C. D., Hlutkowsy, C. O.*, Partika, A. C.*, & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (under review, invited resubmission). Identifying teachers' supports of metacognition through classroom talk and its relation to growth in conceptual learning.

Zepeda, C. D., Richey, J. E., Ronevich, P., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2015). Direct instruction of metacognition benefits adolescent science learning, transfer, and motivation: An in-vivo study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107(4), 954-970. doi: 10.1037/edu0000022 PDF

Jones, A. C., Wardlow, L., Pan, S. C., Zepeda, C., Heyman, G. D., Dunlosky, J., & Rickard, T. C. (2015). Beyond the rainbow: Retrieval practice leads to better spelling than does rainbow writing. Educational Psychology Review, 1-16. doi: 10.1007/s10648-015-9330-6 Link to article

Richey, J. E., Zepeda, C. D., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2015). Transfer effects of prompted and self-reported analogical comparison and self-explanation. In D. C. Noelle, R. Dale, A. S. Warlaumont, J. Yoshimi, T. Matlock, C. D. Jennings, & P. P Maglio (Eds.), Proceedings of the 37th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 1985-1990). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. PDF

Relevant Conference Presentations

Zepeda, C. D., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2017, October). Metacognitive awareness: The type of retrospective questions matters Poster presented . Poster submitted to the 58th annual meeting of Psychonomic Society: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. PDF

Zepeda, C. D., Hlutkowsy, C. O.*, Partika, A. C.*, & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2016, April). Identifying teachers' supports of metacognition in the classroom . Symposium presented at the annual meeting of the American Education Research Association: Washington D.C.

Zepeda, C., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2015, July). Capturing the relations between metacognition, self-explanation, and analogical comparison: An exploration of two methodologies . Poster presented at the Thirty-Seventh Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Pasadena, CA. PDF

Ferrara, A. M.*, Zepeda, C., & Nokes-Malach, T. J. (2014, July). Investigating the relationship between mindfulness and learning . Poster presented at the Thirty-Sixth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Quebec City, Canada. PDF

Relevant Local Presentations

Nokes-Malach, T. J., Zepeda, C. D., Boden, K., & Barstow, B. (2017, June). Flipping the script: Innovating large lectures with principles from cognitive science - Assessment and reflection. Presented at the Discipline-based Science Education Research Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

* Denotes an undergraduate advisee