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The effects of academic settings on students' metacognition in mathematical problem solving
Wong, P. S. K. (1989, December). The effects of academic settings on students' metacognition in mathematical problem solving. Paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education Conference, Adelaide, Australia.
This study aims to determine whether students from different academic settings differ in their usage of metacognitive strategies in mathemetical problem solving, and if they do what the differences are. Metacognition is considered by most educationists as an element necessary for many cognitive tasks. For example, in problem solving, it has been said that possessing knowledge alone is insufficient and problem solvers need to exhibit higher level cognitive skills like "self-regulation skills" (also known as metacognitive strategies) for successful problem solving (Gagne, 1985; Gagne & Glaser, 1987). Metacognitive strategies or "executive skills" as referred by Sternberg (1983) are generalized skills required for planning, monitoring, controlling, selecting and evaluating intellectual activities. Over the past two years, a study on students' metacognitive strategies has been carried out with over a thousand secondary and pre-university students from 12 schools. A questionnaire adapted from Biggs (1987) was administered to students at various levels (Grade 8, Grade 10~ Grade 11), from academic tracks (General, Science, Arts) and academic streams (Special, Express, and Nom1a1) requiring them to self-report on their metacognitive beliefs; their usage of metacognitive strategies in mental tasks involving memory, probletn solving and comprehension; and their attitudes towards the learning of various academic subjects. 20 items from the questionnaire were categorized following the framework proposed by Garofalo and Lester (1985). Within each stage, the frequency of usage of these metacognitive strategies as reported by the students were averaged, analysed and interpreted.
Some of the findings that emerged were:
(a) Normal stream students exhibited a lower usage of metacognitive strategies as compared to those in the Express and Special streams.
(b) Metacognitive strategies used by Normal stream students tended to be of the "surface” type.
(c) There is no significant difference in the frequency of usage of metacognitive strategies between students from differerent academic tracks.
(d) Students from different levels (Secondary 2, Secondary 4, and Pre-University) exhibited similar frequency of usage of metacognitive strategies in problem solving.
The implications of these findings on future research and development projects as well as the teaching of metacognitive strategies will be discussed in the paper.
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