How do children learn from interactions?

    • Topic: Social Interactions

    • Location: Discovery Center

    As children learn about the world, they must learn to navigate multiple sources of information (e.g., parents, friends, teachers, books). Studies from our lab have shown that children prefer some sources of information over others, and that children consider the quality of the explanation offered. We are interested in further exploring how children evaluate explanations given by adults.

    In this study, children (ages 4-5) and their caregivers play with a series of problem solving toys. First, children and caregivers will play with one set of toys on their own. Next, an experimenter will help children and caregivers explore a second set of toys. Finally, children and caregivers will play with a third set of toys – this time on their own. We are interested in finding out how adults guide exploration in children, how children use their interactions with adults to learn new concepts, and how these interactions shape children’s future exploration.

    We predict that caregivers’ interactions with their children will be influenced by their beliefs about learning and that children will interact differently with the toys based on how their caregivers play with them.

    These studies will help us understand how children make critical judgments about information they receive, and how these judgments guide their learning. We are particularly interested in how children develop into successful self-guided learners.

    This research is conducted at the Museum of Science, Boston by the Social Learning Lab at Boston University’s School of Education:

        » Boston University Social Learning Lab

    Activities to Try in the Discovery Center

    Learning from Adults

    Children often look to others for information. When your child has questions about the objects in the Discovery Center, notice where s/he goes to find help.

    How does your child know who will be a reliable source of information? What kinds of questions does your child ask of others? What kinds of questions do the museum staff and volunteers ask your child? Are there any other strategies you observe museum staff using as they interact with your child?

    Activities to Try at Home

    Teaching Others

    Ask your child to explain to you how to play with one of his or her favorite toys, and notice the kind of explanation your child uses when describing the toy to you. Does s/he consider your prior knowledge of the toy or of similar toys? What kinds of descriptions does your child use – does s/he gave instructions, ask you questions, model how s/he plays, or does s/he explain the toy in a different way? Discuss with your child how these types of explanations differ. Ask which type of explanation s/he likes to be given by others. Does s/he prefer to receive the same type of explanation that s/he gave?

Research Spotlight

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