Children's Use of Meta-Cognition in Solving Everyday Problems: Children's Monetary Decision-Making

Article excerpt

In a knowledge economy that rewards highly adaptive and creative individuals who are able to assume epistemic agency and learn intentionally (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006), students need to be actively involved in the construction of knowledge and the evaluation of choices that they make (Osana, Tucker & Bennett, 2003). Recently, the Ministry of Education (Singapore) announced a new framework to enhance the development of 21st-century competencies in Singaporean students. Such a framework seeks to better prepare students to thrive in a fast-changing and highly connected world (Ministry of Education, 2010). This new framework suggests 21st-century competencies and student outcomes. One of the desirable outcomes is responsible decision-making. As a type of problem (see Jonassen, 2004), decision-making is complex because the problem solvers need to consider factors such as time and cost (Lee, Teo & Bergin, 2009). Decision-making is defined as the process of choosing a course of action from among two or more alternatives while in the midst of pursuing one's goals (Byrnes, 1998). The ability to make sound decisions is a vital life skill.

Meta-cognition is an important aspect of problem-solving (Gardner, 1991; Karmiloff-Smith, 1992) because it includes problem-relevant awareness of one's thinking, monitoring of cognitive processes, regulation of cognitive processes and application of heuristics (Hennessey, 1999, 2003). Generally, meta-cognition comprises two main components: regulation of cognition and knowledge of cognition. Problem-solving is considered the most essential cognitive activity in everyday and professional contexts (Jonassen, 2000), and recent studies show that the ability to solve everyday problems predicts on-the-job performance (Cianciolo et. al., 2006; Sternberg, 2005). Everyday problems, often characterised as ill structured, are emergent, their solutions are unpredictable, and they typically require multiple criteria for evaluating solutions (Jonassen, 2000). Although Hong, Jonassen and McGee (2003) found that meta-cognition is called for when solving ill-structured problems, research on the role of meta-cognition in solving ill-structured problems is scarce. Most research on understanding meta-cognition focuses on classroom settings (Everson & Tobias, 1998; Schraw & Dennison, 1994; Sperling, Howard, Miller & Murphy, 2002) and little is known about the influence of meta-cognition on children's problem-solving ability in everyday settings. Some researchers have argued that everyday problem-solving requires more complex cognitive processes than solving well-structured problems, such as most textbook problems. For instance, Johnson-Laird (1982) argued that everyday reasoning involves implicit inferences that depend upon general knowledge and generally go beyond the strictly necessary conclusion. Solving well-structured problems requires meta-cognition, and this is even more the case in solving everyday problems.

A particular focus of this research is on elementary school children's meta-cognition, because studies in this area are found to be limited (Sperling et al., 2002; Stipek, Feiler, Daniels & Milburn, 1995). There is great potential in unravelling the roles of meta-cognition in children's day-to-day problem-solving. This refers, in particular, to solving problems that are 'frequently experienced in daily life, that are complex, and multidimensional, and that are often ill-structured as to their goals and their solutions' (Berg, Strough, Calderone, Sansone & Weir, 1998, p. 29). Hence, understanding the role of meta-cognition in children's day-to-day problem-solving may lead to the development of more effective instruction that can help children in acquiring important skills. The type of problem of interest is decision-making as illustrated by Jonassen (2007). In addition, the study will focus on children's monetary decision-making for pragmatic and theoretical considerations. …