Characteristics of parent-child interactions: How do they affect children's acquisition of metacognitive skills?
Characteristics of parent-child interactions in two tasks that required strategic activity and within which instruction in metacognition could occur were examined. Two experimental groups of third- and fourth-grade girls were paired with their mothers and asked to complete three trials of an errand route planning task and three trials of a memory task, while a control group was asked to work independently on three trials of the same tasks. Within each of these groups, half of the participants were high achievers and the remainder, of a lower level of achievement, according to standardized tests. For each child assigned to one of the experimental groups, the first trial of each task consisted of a pretest in which the child worked independently. The second trial consisted of 'training' in which the child worked together with her mother. During this trial, instructions to mothers were manipulated. Mothers of daughters in one experimental condition received instructions focusing on teaching task-related skills that could be generalized to new, similar tasks, while the mothers of daughters assigned to the other experimental condition received instructions focusing on teaching task-related skills for one specific task on which their daughters were working. The third trial consisted of a posttest in which the child worked independently on a new version of each task. For both tasks, children in the experimental conditions were expected to show greater improvements in performance, actual use and reported use of strategies, and metacognitive understanding than children in the control condition. Children in the experimental conditions showed improved performance, demonstrated and reported more sophisticated strategies and varied study activities, and demonstrated better metacognitive understanding on both tasks. Few differences were found between high and average achievers or between the two experimental groups. Children's performance was related to their reported and actual use of strategies and their perceived value of mother instruction, but not to mother teaching behaviors. Implications of the findings are discussed