Cognitive Competence as a Positive Youth Development Construct: A Conceptual Review Rachel C. F. Sun and Eadaoin K. P. Hui
Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Received 3 August 2011; Accepted 1 September 2011
Academic Editor: Joav Merrick
Copyright © 2012 Rachel C. F. Sun and Eadaoin K. P. Hui. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
This paper focuses on discussing critical thinking and creative thinking as the core cognitive competence. It reviews and compares several theories of thinking, highlights the features of critical thinking and creative thinking, and delineates their interrelationships. It discusses cognitive competence as a positive youth development construct by linking its relationships with adolescent development and its contributions to adolescents' learning and wellbeing. Critical thinking and creative thinking are translated into self-regulated cognitive skills for adolescents to master and capitalize on, so as to facilitate knowledge construction, task completion, problem solving, and decision making. Ways of fostering these thinking skills, cognitive competence, and ultimately positive youth development are discussed.
According to Piaget [1, 2], cognitive competence constitutes the cyclical processes of assimilation and accommodation, which indicates that people can manipulate their personal experiences as well as organize and adapt their thoughts to guide their behavior. Similarly, Fry  pointed out that cognitive competence comprises three interwoven and interdependent components: cognitive structures, cognitive processes, and overt behaviors. Among them, “cognitive processes,” such as metacognition, cognitive styles of self-regulation, and cognitive skills of thinking, reasoning, analyzing problems, and information processing, can affect one’s “behaviors” like task performance, problem solving, and decision making, as well as “cognitive structures,” such as self-schemas and goal orientation. It further points out that people can make a difference in their cognitive development and capability by manipulating their mental processes and cognitive styles via using appropriate thinking skills. It is also argued that cognitive competence is more than an ability to manipulate and strategize information, but an ability to internalize, self-regulate, and transfer these cognitive skills to construct knowledge and make sense of the surroundings [4, 5].
In the literature, there are various types of thinking, for instance, logical thinking and reasoning [1, 2], legislative, executive, and judicial thinking styles , synthetic, analytic and practical intellectual skills , divergent thinking and evaluative thinking [8–10], and lateral thinking, and vertical thinking . There are also important features of adolescent thinking, for instance, being able to think abstractly, test hypotheses, conduct reasoning, and make causal inferences [1, 2]. All these are used to facilitate knowledge construction, task completion, problem solving, and decision making, but their application commonly requires critical thinking and creative thinking. Indeed, numerous studies have demonstrated that adolescents who were equipped with critical thinking and creative thinking had better academic performance [12, 13], health [14, 15], cognitive development , psychosocial development , and identity development  and were less likely to engage in unhealthy or problem behavior [19, 20]. Therefore, both critical thinking and creative thinking are regarded as generic transferable life skills for adolescents [11, 21–23], who have to deal with various developmental stresses and challenges, such as puberty changes, adjustments in social roles and expectations, school transition,...
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