Metacognition, acquisition of new knowledge and conceptual change: family and school environments for the social construction of Knowledge
(From 2003 to 2006)

Project Leader:

Zilda Fidalgo

Project's Summary:

Metacognitive knowledge and causal reasoning, are two higher psychological functions (Vygotsky 1934/1985), constructed in joint activity, with adults in particular (Wertsch, 1985), in different environments, such as family and school. While onceptual change is the broad subject area that sets the epistemological background for science learning, metacognition is seen as a potential mediator in the acquisition of scientific conceptions. How family and school contribute to the development of those cognitive abilities (4-6/7 year’s old children) is our aim. We do not advocate metacognition as a subject of formal instruction: children should be encouraged to think in their own thinking in any joint resolution task. In the family, we will examine the extent to which mothers’ attitudes in the zone of proximal development and scaffolding practices in metacognitive tasks foster the development of children’s metacognitive knowledge.

Otherwise, science learning is the object of formal instruction. Formal teaching should modify children’s spontaneous concepts (Vygotsky, 1934/1985), in a process of guided construction of knowledge, where speech is the main mediator and metacognitive processes are involved. We will study how preschool and first grade children become to acquire some scientific knowledge (the properties of the air) focusing our analysis on classroom talk (Mercer, 1996).

Project’s aims:

1. To identify the effects of mothers educational level in children’s metacognitive knowledge;

2. To identify the effects of mothers’ education in their attitudes and interactions with their children in different joint task resolution: memorization task (Rogoff, 1982, 1986; Rogoff, & Gauvain, 1986; Melot, 1988); planning tasks (Rogoff, 1990; St.Lauremt, & Moss, 2000); and talking about past events (first day in school);

3. To identify the effect of children’s age, both in mothers’ attitudes and observed scaffolding practices;

4. To analyse communication process between teacher and children and between peers in. science learning contexts;

5. To identify developmental sequence in children’s construction of the target concepts through the content of their talk exchanges;

6. To identify a developmental sequence in children’s construction of causal and argumentative talk, and its relation with scaffolding strategies.

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