Unprepared/Underprepared and Unaware

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities.

reads the abstract for Justin Kruger and David Dunning’s 2009 paper in Psychology.

Classroom teachers agree. Polly_Mer on a CHE thread said: “I just realized that students who are unprepared probably wouldn’t read the whole syllabus, all the posted papers on the CMS about how to succeed (about 15 pages’ worth with a lot of pictures), and visit the websites I suggested (again, about 15 pages’ worth) last semester.”

Even when we give the information, the students don’t necessarily access it. How can we show them that they are unprepared?

I’m moving towards doing a backward timeline on the first day, starting with today and moving backwards, in both British and American history, and asking the students to fill it in. (I will have to bone up on more recent history to make sure I know what is correct.) This will let them know what they don’t know in terms of historical background knowledge.

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