PhD ceremony: Ms. A.E. Jacobse, 16.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Dissertation: Can we improve children’s thinking? A metacognitive approach to word problem solving
Promotor(s): prof. R.J. Bosker, prof. E.G. Harskamp
Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences
In elementary education many students experience difficulties when solving word problems. Word problems are mathematical tasks in which the mathematical content is embedded in text. To solve a word problem, a student also needs to perform a variety of activities to infer information from the text. Successful problem solvers generally spend relatively much time analyzing a new problem, constructing a problem model and choosing an appropriate solution plan. After this they carefully implement the plan and verify their answer. Meanwhile they monitor their performance. The regulation and monitoring of the learning process is also known as metacognition. Although metacognition has been identified as an important determinant for success in word problem solving, more research is needed on how to translate this finding to educational practice. This dissertation reports on studies on the importance of metacognition for performance, on the trainability of metacognition in elementary education and on how to measure metacognition. The findings of an observational study first show that metacognition is related to the performance of both native and migrant students (partly) irrespective of their intelligence level. Secondly, two experimental studies were executed with a computer supported training program with word tasks and metacognitive hints. The studies show that students’ metacognitive skills can be improved by training. Moreover, the metacognitive training significantly improved students’ word problem solving performance. The last study demonstrates the importance of measuring metacognition during the execution of learning tasks. The author concludes metacognition to be a variable of great interest for educational research and practice.
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