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Level of strategies and strategic processing

Strategies and the processing that accompanies the use of strategies is generally considered to be dynamic and multidimensional (*Dinsmore, 2017; Dinsmore, Fryer, & Parkinson, this volume). Additionally, the manner in which researchers have conceptualized and operationalized strategies and strategy use has resulted in distinctions between strategies. These distinctions may influence an individual’s subsequent performance on the task or problem in which the individual employed a particular strategy. Also, these distinctions may encompass whether those strategies are domain specific or domain general (Dumas, this volume) or the differences between whether those strategies are cognitive, metacognitive, or self-regulatory. The crux of this chapter will be to consider different levels of strategic processing - with a focus on surface-level (i.e., those strategies aimed at understanding or solving a problem; Dinsmore & Alexander, 2106), deep-level (i.e., those strategies aimed at transforming a problem; Dinsmore & Alexander, 2016), metacognitive (i.e., those strategies aimed at monitoring and controlling one’s own thinking; Garner, 1988), and self-regulatory strategies (i.e., those strategies aimed at regulating cognition, motivation, or affect; Pintrich & De Groot, 1990) - and how this processing influences individuals’ performance in a task or while solving a problem.

Although this task may seem somewhat simplistic, a direct connection between levels of strategy use and performance has been anything but clear (e.g., Block, 2009; Cano, 2007). The long-held notion that those who employ deeper-level strategies over surface-level strategies will perform better (e.g., Phan, 2009b) has not come to fruition across multiple theoretical frameworks or methodologies (e.g., *Asikainen & Gijbels, 2017; ’Dinsmore, 2017). Rather, it appears as if there are other mediating and moderating factors that play into how strategy use and performance are linked.

Fortunately, there now exist numerous reviews of the literature, both systematic and non-systematic, that help the field take stock of some of the facets of strategy use - such

30 • Daniel L. Dinsmore and Courtney Hattan

as levels of processing - and how these other factors might influence performance in conjunction with that strategy use. So, rather than undertake another review to flesh out these issues, we have decided to conduct a review of existing reviews in this relatively mature field of study A systematic review of reviews is similar to a systematic review in that it is a reproducible review, but rather than reviewing empirical studies, the search criteria identify existing reviews of the literature (see Mills & Fives, 2018, for another example). This review will allow us to provide a picture of how levels of processing have been considered historically, how those historical notions have developed in the current state of the literature, and what limitations remain. These insights will then allow us to provide suggestions for both experienced and new scholars in this area of research, as well as provide practical implications for policymakers and practitioners.

To guide this review of reviews, we pose the following questions:

  • 1. How have theoretical levels of processing been conceptualized and operationalized in literature reviews of strategic processing?
  • 2. Have these levels of processing been shown to influence performance in any systematic manner across these reviews?
  • 3. What other individual and contextual factors have these reviews concluded to be important factors to consider in the relation between levels of processing and performance?

Methods for the review

Review Selection

To select relevant reviews for this review we searched PsycINFO and Google Scholar using the terms “strategic processing review” and “cognitive strategy review”. These searches resulted in 29 studies that we identified as potential reviews to include in the pool. Additionally, we identified reviews that we were aware of that were not identified in the database search that fit the review criteria. From there, studies were further hand searched by abstract or article to determine whether they would help provide evidence to answer the guiding question for this review of reviews. In this stage we reduced the number of reviews to our final pool, which encompasses 15 total reviews. For example, although ’Pintrich’s (2004) article, “A conceptual framework for assessing motivation and self-regulated learning in college students,” was identified in our search parameters, a thorough inspection of the article indicated that it was primarily an articulation of a theoretical framework, rather than a review of the literature.

We purposefully did not include levels of processing in the search criteria to examine if this facet of strategies in reviews of strategies and strategic processing was scrutinized. The inclusion and conceptualization of levels of processing was subsequently an idea we tracked in our data table, which we will now describe.

Tabling of the Revie ws

To gather evidence from these reviews we created a table that recorded the inclusion and conceptualization of levels of processing, whether and how the measurement of levels of processing was addressed, the context or contexts in which levels of processing was examined, which learner individual differences were examined, and what conclusions the review drew regarding the link between levels of strategic processing and performance outcomes. The table is primarily descriptive - rather than a reductive coding process - to provide readers with as much information as possible. In other words, we aim here to provide a resource for those interested in these ideas to find relevant reviews in which they can explore these ideas further.

To begin tabling we first discussed each column in the table and what we thought relevant evidence from a review might look like. Second, we jointly tabled two reviews to ensure that evidence we drew from the reviews into the table was congruent. After tabling and discussing those two reviews, we each independently tabled two additional reviews. Following this independent tabling, we compared the evidence from each of these tables and determined they were sufficiently congruent to divide the remaining reviews between the two of us to table.

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