Cognition and Instruction vol:28 issue:4 pages:475-502
This study investigates children's metarepresentational competence with regard to listening to and making sense of simple sonic stimuli. Using diSessa’s (2003) work on metarepresentational competence in mathematics and sciences as theoretical and empirical background, it aims to assess children’s criteria for representational adequacy of graphical representations of sonic stimuli, as well as to investigate the impact of various factors, such as age, and music background of the children and the nature of the sound fragments that were represented on the use of these criteria. Four groups of children (8-9 yrs olds and 11-12 yrs olds with and without extra music education) were exposed to three short fragments that were distinct from each other by the saliency of one sonic parameter. For each fragment, the children received six pairs of researcher-generated representations, with the representations of each pair differing from each other in terms of the representational criterion being stressed (either correctness, completeness, parsimony, formality, transparency, or beauty). The children had to choose one of both representations from each pair and explain their choice. Generally speaking, our results confirmed three major findings of diSessa (2002). They revealed (a) indications of metarepresentational competencies among the children, even among the youngest and musically inexperienced ones, (b) age- and education-related differences with respect to their preferences for certain representational features, and (c) great difficulties among children to articulate their metarepresentational competencies. Theoretical, methodological, and educational implications are discussed.