Executive strategy control in secondary and tertiary populations: Contrasting understandings of self-regulation

Year: 1994

Author: Cantwell, Robert, Beamish, Peter

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

One hundred and two tertiary students and 152 secondary students completed the Strategic Flexibility Questionnaire (Cantwell, 1991, 1994). Factor analysis of the responses of the tertiary students revealed three identifiable predispositions towards the executive management of strategic decisions: adaptive executive control, marked by a reported willingness to mindfully plan and orchestrate strategy choices in processing; inflexible executive control, marked by a reported predisposition towards the mindless application of known strategic algorithms and routines; and ambivalent executive control, marked by a loss of control over strategic planning and implementation. For these students, adaptiveness was associated with better performance in academic learning, while both inflexibility and ambivalence were associated with markedly less successful learning outcomes.

Factor analysis of the responses of the secondary students revealed a less clear-cut executive management profile. The most theoretically and empirically consistent interpretation of the factor structure was one where adaptiveness remained as an identifiable predisposition, but where ambivalence and inflexibility coalesced into a single factor labelled maladaptive executive control.

The lack of differentiation between the inflexible and ambivalent elements of maladaptive executive control are discussed in terms of possible developmental differences in the quality of metacognitive reflections between the middle high school and university years. Performance data for the secondary students was in the process of collection at the time of writing.