Off-Line Metacognition-A Domain-Specific Retardation in Young Children with Learning Disabilities?

By Desoete, Annemie; Roeyers, Herbert | Learning Disability Quarterly, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Off-Line Metacognition-A Domain-Specific Retardation in Young Children with Learning Disabilities?


Desoete, Annemie, Roeyers, Herbert, Learning Disability Quarterly


Abstract. Off-line metacognition (prediction and evaluation) was assessed in 437 normally intelligent children with or without learning disabilities in grades 2 and 3. Children with specific mathematics learning disabilities were compared with peers with specific reading disabilities, children with combined learning disabilities, age-matched peers and younger children matched at mathematical problem-solving level. Our results indicate that offline metacognition cannot be reduced to a demonstration of intelligence. Moreover, the off-line metacognitive scores of children with reading disabilities were comparable to those of age-matched peers without learning disabilities. Furthermore, significantly lower prediction and evaluation scores were found for children with specific or combined mathematics learning disabilities compared with age-matched peers. In addition, our data showed a different metacognitive profile for children with specific or combined mathematics learning disabilities, not comparable on all aspects to the profile of younger children, as suggested by the retardation or maturational-lag hypothesis. The educational implications of these results are discussed.

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Flavell introduced the concept of metacognition in 1976. He defined metacognition as the knowledge and active monitoring of one's own cognitive processes. Metacognition has become a general multidimensional construct enabling learners to adjust to varying tasks, demands and contexts (e.g., Greeno & Riley, 1987; Hutchinson, 1992; Montague, 1996, 1997; Wong, 1987). Moreover, metacognition is currently often used in an overinclusive way, including motivational and affective constructs (Boekaerts, 1999). Despite the emphasis on metacognition, many metacognitive concepts are interpreted differently by various researchers and include a wide range of phenomena. We will therefore start with a definition of the concepts, to avoid misunderstanding.

Metacognition has traditionally been differentiated into two central components, namely, metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive processes (Lucangeli, Galderisi, & Cornoldi, 1995). Metacognitive knowledge can be described as the knowledge, awareness, and deeper understanding of one's own cognitive processes and products (Flavell, 1976). In addition, metacognitive processes or "skills" can be seen as the voluntary' control people have of their cognitive processes (Brown, 1980).

One of the metacognitive skills is prediction. Prediction enables children to think about the learning objectives, proper learning characteristics and the available time. Moreover, children estimate or predict the difficulty of a task and use that prediction metacognitively to regulate their engagement related to outcome and efficacy expectation (Winne, 1997). A number of studies have dealt with the importance of prospective prediction skills in mathematics (e.g., Lucangeli & Cornoldi, 1997). Cornoldi (1998) showed that cognition is affected by predictions, which precede and are triggered by a specific task. The ability to predict enables children to foresee task difficulties and makes them work slowly on difficult tasks and more quickly on easier tasks. In addition, prediction makes children relate certain problems to other problems, develop intuition about the prerequisites required for doing a task and distinguish between apparent and real difficulties in mathematical problem solving (Lucangeli, Cornoldi, & Tellarini, 1998).

Another metacognitive skill, the evaluation skill, can be defined as the retrospective reflections that take place after an event has transpired (Brown, 1987), whereby children look at what strategies were used and whether or not they led to a desired result. Specifically, children reflect on the outcome and the understanding of the problem and the appropriateness of the plan, the execution of the solution method as well as on the adequacy of the answer within the context of the problem (Garofalo & Lester, 1985; Vermeer, 1997). …

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