Early Relationships among Self-Regulatory Constructs: Theory of Mind and Preschool Children's Problem Solving

Article excerpt

This study was designed to address relationships among self-regulatory constructs in young children. Relationships were investigated among (a) the theory of mind constructs of intention and false-belief, (b) problem solving ability, (c) metacognitive regulation, and (d) strategy use in 39 preschool-aged children. Findings indicate generally expected age-appropriate differences on theory of mind tasks, problem solving, metacognitive regulation, and strategy use. Significant correlations are evident between strategy use and theory of mind, and metacognitive regulation and theory of mind. A moderate, but nonsignificant correlation is found between strategy use and metacognitive regulation. The findings across tasks indicate preschool children possess regulatory capability in a variety of domains and indicate that self-regulation and strategy use is evident on problem-solving tasks in preschool learners.

If one were to ask what metacognitive self-regulation is evident in children, many researchers and theorists would have an answer. The answers, however, would probably vary considerably. Researchers investigating the emergence of metacognitive regulation in academic domains, for example, might state that metacognition is apparent at the ages of approximately 8 or 10 years (Baker, 1984; Cross & Paris, 1988). Some researchers investigating children's other reflective abilities, however, would state that children display metacognitive regulation as early as two or three years of age (Robinson, 1983).

One possible reason for this apparent inconsistency is that regulatory abilities have been investigated on several different types of tasks. Children's metacognitive regulation, for example, has been investigated on academic (deSousa & Oakhill, 1996; Swanson, 1990; VanLeuvan & Wang, 1997), social (Butterworth & Light, 1982), and memory (Schneider & Pressley, 1989; Schneider, Schlagmueller, & Vise, 1998) tasks. Additional, often applied, work has investigated self-regulation of behavior (e.g., Shimabukuro, Prater, Jenkins, & Edelen-Smith, 1999). Further, research investigating children's theory of mind (Astington, 1993; Bartsch & Estes, 1996; Frye & Moore, 1991; Perner, 1992) and private speech (Daugherty & Logan, 1996; Diaz & Berk, 1992) has also investigated self-regulation.

Metacognition has been defined in numerous ways (e.g., Brown, 1978; Cross & Paris, 1988; Flavell, 1979; Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993; Hacker, 1998; Nelson & Narnes, 1996). Although other frameworks of metacognition are present in the literature (e.g., Nelson & Names, 1996), research on children's metacognition generally employs one of two frameworks. One framework, initiated by Flavell (Flavell, 1979; Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993), and further developed by Hacker (1998), presents metacognition as including metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences, as well as goals and strategies or actions. Metacognitive knowledge includes task, person, and strategy components. Metacognitive experiences include feelings of understanding and may be the impetus of strategy implementation (Flavell, 1979), with these strategies implemented to facilitate goal attainment (Dunlosky, 1998; Hacker 1998). Flavell and colleagues referred to these components generally as metacognitive monitoring and self-regulation (1 993).

The second framework initiated by Brown (1978), and further delineated and discussed in later work (Baker & Brown, 1984; Cross & Paris, 1988; Jacobs & Paris, 1987; Paris, Cross, & Lipson, 1984; Pereira-Laird & Deane, 1997; Schraw & Dennison, 1994) also suggests two components: Knowledge of cognition and regulation of cognition. The knowledge component includes declarative, procedural, and conditional knowledge of cognition. The regulation of cognition component includes constructs such as planning, monitoring, and evaluation.

The current study considers both Dunlosky's (1998) discussion of constructs and definitions, and incorporates aspects of both these frameworks and defines metacognition as a three-part construct. …