Many cognitive theorists have also assessed how more specific information-processing skills (topic-specific thinking and problem-solving skills), cognitive learning strategies (strategies consciously used by people to learn new information), and metacognitive skills (skills related to the conscious monitoring of one’s own learning and problem-solving activities) change over development (e.g., Bjorklund, 1989; Siegler, 1986; Zimmerman, 1989). There is a steady increase in children’s information-processing skills and learning strategies, their knowledge of a variety of different topics and subject areas, their ability to apply their knowledge to new learning situations, and their awareness of their strengths and weaknesses as learners. Although one would think that these types of cognitive changes ought to allow adolescents to be more efficient, sophisticated learners, ready to cope with relatively advanced topics in many different subject areas, Keating (1990) has argued that these changes do not necessarily make adolescents better thinkers, particularly during the early adolescent years. They need a lot of experience exercising these skills before they can use them efficiently (see also Clark, 1988). Community programs may provide adolescents the opportunity to practice these skills and take advantage of increasing competence by allowing them to play significant roles in program design and implementation. Enlisting adolescents as peer tutors for younger children, for example, is an excellent example of both of these opportunities. Tutoring experiences are also likely to help adolescents: (1) consolidate earlier learning related to the fundamental skills needed for college preparatory high school courses; (2) learn to analyze learning as they try to teach someone else new skills (which in turn can help them become better learners themselves); (3) feel valued and respected by adults; and (4) improve their skill at taking the perspective of others.
Along with their implications for children’s learning, these cognitive changes also affect individuals’ self-concept, thoughts about their future, and understanding of others. Theorists from Erikson (1963) to Harter (1990), Eccles (Eccles and Barber, 1999), Youniss (Youniss, 1980; Yates and Youniss, 1998), and Sullivan (1953) have suggested that the adolescent years are a time of change in self-concept, as young people consider what possibilities are available to them and try to come to a deeper understanding of themselves in the social and cultural settings in which they live. In a culture that stresses personal choice in life planning, these concerns and interests set the stage for personal and social identity formation focused on life planning toward educational, occupational, recreational, and marital choices. These sorts of self-reflections require the