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The development of children’s strategies on an inductive reasoning task

This paper reports an analysis of children’s cognitive strategies on an inductive reasoning task, by means of a new methodological approach. A sample of 72 children aged 6, 8 and 10 were presented with three different versions of a multidimensional discrimination learning task, which was presented in such a way as to ‘optimise’ their performance. Their responses were analysed in terms of 10 Strategy Components, scores on which were analysed by means of cluster analysis. Overall, the children performed at more sophisticated levels than previously found. Five Strategy Clusters representing distinct patterns of strategic behaviour were revealed. A developmental sequence was established between these patterns of strategic behaviour and, significantly, two alternative developmental routes relating to strategic style. While the results support a complex model of strategy construction, as revealed by recent research, the distinct nature of the Strategy Clusters points to a discontinuous model of strategy development. This evidence of children’s differing abilities to construct and select appropriate strategies in relation to a novel task strongly supports the educational imperative of encouraging children’s early use and awareness of cognitive strategies.