The development team found that the age breakdowns in existing industry guidelines did not align with student’s cognitive abilities to evaluate key concepts. To address this problem, the NFEC team interviewed educators and sought research to provide evidence-based reasoning for the age breakdowns of the Certification age levels.
The youth personal finance certifications are separated into 4 groups: 1) PK – 2nd grade, 2) 3rd – 5th grade, 3) 6th – 8th grade, and 4) teen and adult. The NFEC separated each age range grouping into ‘beginner,’ ‘intermediate,’ and ‘advanced’ categories using Webb’s Depth of Knowledge framework. This design gives the instructor flexibility to assess and push participants to encourage higher levels of achievement.
Both the Core Knowledge Theory and Piaget’s Theory also were explored during personal finance certification assessment development. Piaget’s cognitive development theory says that children learn by reconciling inconsistencies through four developmental stages. In some instances the Core Knowledge Theory challenges Piaget’s theory by saying that age or developmental stage matter less than the level at which a child engages with particular theories about the world. Yet while these theories differ in some respects, they also share commonalities. Piaget’s Theory supports current researchers to conclude that effectively teaching kids about money must connect lessons to existing cognitive structures; core knowledge theorists hold that effective education will relate to existing theories or models. Both schools of thought emphasize that children are active learners who filter new information to fit with their current beliefs. (1)
The personal finance certification assessments were developed using Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development as a model and their understanding of key concepts – separating material based on cognitive abilities (pre-operational ages 2 to7, concrete operational ages 7 to 11, and formal operational for those older than age 11). The NFEC converted the ages to grade levels to ensure that students had the cognitive abilities and skills necessary to successfully complete the lessons at each level.
Above age 11, the learning barometers were separated based on students’ math abilities and understanding. In the 7th and 8th grade (ages 11 to 14) students are learning the skills essential to making fundamental personal finance calculations, including negative numbers, rates, decimals, and basic statistics needed to solve personal finance problems.
For younger children, the NFEC also explored the key concepts featured in the report ‘Financial Literacy Programs Targeted on Pre-School Children: Development and Evaluation,’ including development of the concepts of number, time, money and income, value, market and exchange, choice, and social values.
Click the Age Group to View Standards & Learning Outcome Summary
The NFEC asserts that high school students can and should learn advanced personal financial planning topics. Starting in high school, most students possess the cognitive abilities (according to Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development) and math skills needed for the majority of the personal finance lessons. The learning outcomes for high school students and adults of all ages are the same and the standards have been broken down into beginner, intermediate, and advanced lessons based on the Depth of Knowledge framework.
The NFEC’s Personal Finance Certifications used when teaching personal finance are the same for teenage and adult learners. We hold younger learners to the same standards as we do our adult graduates. They possess the cognitive and skills needed to achieve Master-level Certification and demonstrate extended thinking. Youth and adult learners are able to connect lessons with other concepts.
It is important to note that, although the subject matter taught to teens and adults is similar, the NFEC’s Framework for Teaching Personal Finance highlights the importance of understanding the audience and modifying how lessons are taught to maximize appeal to the targeted ages. The Framework also addresses the importance of providing a timely financial education – for example, reaching participants when they are considering a major financial step. Younger learners may lack experience but they typically have suffered shorter periods of person financial problems and less ingrained habits than their adult counterparts.
For educators, these standards set performance goals for those who participate in the training. For learners, it provides learning goals that give them clear targets to strive for. When both educators and learners have set goals, the program is better positioned to achieve positive outcomes.