In general, I am interested in how children learn from everyday interactions with others, such as conversations with parents and peers. I have two main lines of research. First, I am interested in how children learn about everyday science and emotion understanding. Much of this work has focused on how child gender influences conversations about science and emotion. Second, my work focuses on children’s reasoning about social issues, such as children’s rights (and especially rights for others) and rejection based on social groups.
I am currently looking at children’s understanding of rejection based on status. For more details of this project funded by the Leverhulme Foundation, please see Children's Reasoning about Peer Rejection based on Status.
Martin Ruck, City University of New York
Patrick Leman, Royal Holloway
Jill Hohenstein, Kings College London
Andy Tolmie, Institute of Education
Melanie Killen, University of Maryland
Social and Personality Development, Developmental 1 and Developmental 2
Cultural and Historical Issues in Psychology
Lead Admissions Tutor
Athena SWAN Lead
Section Leader, Developmental Research Group.
I am an associate editor of the British Journal of Educational Psychology and the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.
This study examined children's reasoning about single‐gender and single‐faith schools and play contexts. Young people (twenty‐three 8‐ to 10‐year‐olds and fifty‐three 12‐ to 14‐year‐olds) were asked to judge and reason about the acceptability of exclusion based on gender and religion by children and school principals. Participants rated exclusion based on gender as more acceptable than based on religion. Exclusion from school contexts was rated as more acceptable than exclusion from play contexts. Participants tended to invoke moral reasons to condemn exclusion when reasoning about religion, whereas they tended to invoke social conventional reasons when reasoning about gender. Young people's greater support for religiously inclusive schooling compared to gender inclusive schooling suggests that societal and governmental acceptance of religious diversity has support from future generations.
This study investigated the ways in which families constructed an understanding of evolution exhibits at a natural history museum. We examined museum visitors’ use of exhibit text and the types of evolution-related talk in parent-child conversations while visiting the chimp/human and the artiodactyl exhibits. Participants were 52 families with children aged 2- to 11-years who agreed to be digitally recorded. Analyses of parent-child conversations indicated that families who read exhibit text were more likely to stay longer at the exhibits and to encounter the intended content of the exhibits than families who did not read the text. On-topic conversations tended to focus on labelling and describing the exhibit content rather than talking about evolutionary concepts. Physical descriptions of exhibit displays allowed children to make inferences about novel entities (i.e., those in the exhibits) based on prior knowledge.
This study examined age differences in young people’s understanding of evolution theory in secondary school. A second aim of this study was to propose a new coding scheme that more accurately described students’ conceptual understanding about evolutionary theory. We argue that coding schemes adopted in previous research may have overestimated students’ grasp of evolutionary concepts.Atotal of 106 students aged 12, 14, and 16 took part in individual interviews investigating their understanding of evolution. Using the newcoding scheme, wefound that while 16-year olds were more likely than 12-year olds to endorse scientific concepts when answering a question about finches, their understanding of natural selection, however, did not generalize to the other four questions. Furthermore, students began to incorporate relevant terminology (e.g., adapt, evolve, etc.) and structure their explanations using relevant language at around age 14. Students often used relevant terminology without having a more advanced understanding of evolutionary theory. Instead, they used the relevant terms in a colloquial rather than a scientific sense. Implications of the current findings for teaching and theory are discussed.
This study examined gender, age, and task differences in positive touch and physical proximity during mother-child and father-child conversations. Sixty-five Spanish mothers and fathers and their 4- (M = 53.50 months, SD = 3.54) and 6-year-old (M = 77.07 months, SD = 3.94) children participated in this study. Positive touch was examined during a play-related storytelling task and a reminiscence task (conversation about past emotions). Fathers touched their children positively more frequently during the play-related storytelling task than did mothers. Both mothers and fathers were in closer proximity to their 6-year-olds than their 4-year-olds. Mothers and fathers touched their children positively more frequently when reminiscing than when playing. Finally, 6-year-olds remained closer to their parents than did 4-year-olds. Implications of these findings for future research on children’s socioemotional development are discussed.
This study examined relations between 124 British children’s and their parents’ endorsements about the origins of three living things (human, non-human animal, plant) as reported on questionnaires. In addition to completing questionnaires, half of the sample discussed the origins of entities (n = 64) in parent-child dyads before completing the questionnaires. The 7-year-old age group endorsed creationism more than evolution and the 10-year-old age group endorsed both concepts equally for all three living things. Children’s endorsements were correlated with their parents’ endorsements for all three living things. Children’s endorsement of evolutionary theory was more closely related to parent-child conversational mentions of evolution than to parents’ endorsement of evolutionary theory in questionnaires. A similar pattern was found for children’s endorsement of creationism. Parent-child conversations did not consistently invoke evolution or creationism even when parents endorsed a particular theory. Findings are interpreted in relation to the pivotal role of joint collaborative conversation in children’s appropriation of scientific content.
As the left hemiface is controlled by the emotion-dominant right hemisphere, emotion is expressed asymmetrically. Portraits showing a model's left cheek consequently appear more emotive. Though the left cheek bias is well established in adults, it has not been investigated in children. To determine whether the left cheek biases for emotion perception and expression are present and/or develop between the ages of 3 and 7 years, 145 children (71 male, 74 female; M age = 65.49 months) completed two experimental tasks: one assessing biases in emotion perception, and the other assessing biases in emotion expression. Regression analysis confirmed that children aged 3-7 years find left cheek portraits happier than right cheek portraits, and age does not predict the magnitude of the bias. In contrast when asked to pose for a photo expressing happiness children did not show a left cheek bias, with logistic regression confirming that age did not predict posing orientations. These findings indicate that though the left cheek bias for emotion perception is established by age 3, a similar bias for emotion expression is not evident by age 7. This implies that tacit knowledge of the left cheek's greater expressivity is not innate but develops in later childhood/adolescence.
Relations between parent-child emotion talk and children's emotion understanding were examined in 63 Spanish mothers and fathers and their 4- (M = 53.35 months, SD = 3.86) and 6-year-old (M = 76.62 months, SD = 3.91) children. Parent-child emotion talk was analyzed during two storytelling tasks: a play-related storytelling task and a reminiscence task (conversation about past experiences). Children's emotion understanding was assessed twice through a standardized test of emotion comprehension (TEC; Pons et al., 2004), once before one of the two parent-child storytelling sessions and again 6 months later. Mothers' use of emotion labels during the play-related storytelling task predicted children's emotion understanding after controlling for children's previous emotion understanding. Whereas fathers' use of emotion labels during the play-related storytelling task was correlated with children's emotion understanding, it did not predict children's emotion understanding after controlling for previous emotion understanding. Implications of these findings for future research on children's socioemotional development are discussed.
As the incoming editor for the British Journal of Educational Psychology, I would first like to thank Professor Andy Tolmie for his hard work on BJEP. Under his editorship, the impact factor of BJEP has risen, and the journal has become even better known internationally. Following from Andy’s outstanding editorship, I will set out my vision for BJEP for the next 3 years.
This study examined British young people's understanding of the rights of asylum-seeking young people. Two hundred sixty participants (11-24years) were read vignettes involving asylum-seeking young people's religious and nonreligious self-determination and nurturance rights. Religious rights were more likely to be endorsed than nonreligious rights. In general, younger participants were more likely than older participants to endorse the rights of asylum-seeking young people. Supporting a social cognitive domain approach, patterns of reasoning varied with the type of right and whether scenarios involved religious or nonreligious issues. Few developmental differences were found regarding participants' reasoning about asylum-seeking young people's religious or nonreligious rights. The findings are discussed with reference to available theory and research on young people's conceptions of rights. © 2012 The Authors. Child Development © 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc.
Discovery learning approaches to education have recently come under scrutiny (Tobias & Duffy, 2009), with many studies indicating limitations to discovery learning practices. Therefore, 2 meta-analyses were conducted using a sample of 164 studies: The 1st examined the effects of unassisted discovery learning versus explicit instruction, and the 2nd examined the effects of enhanced and/or assisted discovery versus other types of instruction (e.g., explicit, unassisted discovery). Random effects analyses of 580 comparisons revealed that outcomes were favorable for explicit instruction when compared with unassisted discovery under most conditions (d = -0.38, 95% CI [-.44, -.31]). In contrast, analyses of 360 comparisons revealed that outcomes were favorable for enhanced discovery when compared with other forms of instruction (d = 0.30, 95% CI [.23, .36]). The findings suggest that unassisted discovery does not benefit learners, whereas feedback, worked examples, scaffolding, and elicited explanations do. © 2010 American Psychological Association.
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