The project aims at creating a novel research front in the gap between two encompassing research fields that both focus on development of meta-cognitive capabilities. One field concerns the development in school children of mental strategies and control mechanisms that improve an individual’s capability for problem solving and learning. The other field targets the very young – infants and up to 4-5 years of age – and the development of their understanding that someone else can know, think and desire – and thus act – in another way than themselves, a so called Theory of Mind (ToM).

In spite of the obvious relation between the fields – both aim at exploring the development of children’s knowledge and understanding of mental phenomena – few projects have undertaken to connect the fields. One reason is that several methods suitable for studying cognition in school children cannot easily be applied on younger children. This project exploits a research instrument in the form of a digital learning game, in which the child acts as teacher and instructs and guides a digital tutee or protégée.

This situation creates a natural incitement for the child to reason about her tutee’s “thinking” and learning. Our goal is to study the relation between i) the child’s meta-cognitive abilities as manifested in this situation, ii) the child’s developmental level with respect to ToM and iii) the child’s developmental level as to her capability to think and reason about her own learning and problem solving.

By contributing to a novel research front-line the project can be fully motivated from a pure research perspective. In addition there are strong application oriented motives. Children who fail in school often have weakly developed metacognitive abilities, whereas the successful children are strong in this respect. Increased knowledge on the development of these capabilities, including the conception of one self as a learner, is therefore of importance. Why? Because if we at an early stage can identify and support children who are weak or slow in this development we may positively influence their chances of future learning inside and outside of the school context.


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