Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Kids Learn Words Best By Working Out Meaning

Date:
March 16, 2007
Source:
Johns Hopkins University
Summary:
Toddlers learn new words more easily when they figure out the words' meaning for themselves, research by a 22-year-old Johns Hopkins undergraduate suggests.

Not a 'blicket' in the bunch. Meredith Brinster uses nonsense words to determine how toddlers acquire and comprehend unfamiliar vocabulary.
Credit: Will Kirk / HIPS

Toddlers learn new words more easily when they figure out the words' meaning for themselves, research by a 22-year-old Johns Hopkins undergraduate suggests.

Meredith Brinster's original research, suggesting that learning words by inference is more powerful for 3-year- olds than just being told their meaning, is intriguing and may have important implications for the future of teaching, her faculty adviser said.

"One of the things that is particularly exciting about the work Meredith is doing is its potential to change the way we think about education and learning," said Justin Halberda, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins.

Interested in how very young children learn to attach the names of objects to the objects themselves, Brinster designed a study to measure which word-learning strategy was more effective: direct instruction, in which an adult "directly" points to and names an unfamiliar object, or inference, in which toddlers use reason (such as process of elimination) to mentally "fasten" an unfamiliar word to an unfamiliar object. Based on previous research, Brinster posited that the young children would learn words more quickly via inference.

According to her preliminary results, she was correct.

"We found that our hypothesis was true, and that inference is better than instruction," said Brinster, a psychology major.

Over the summer, Brinster worked with 100 children, ages 36 to 42 months, who came to the Laboratory for Child Development on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. One trial tested how well children learned words through inference, and the other how well they learned through direct instruction.

During the inference trial, Brinster showed the youngsters both familiar and strange objects (for instance, a ball and a plumber's "T" connector). After saying a nonsense word ("blicket," for instance), she would ask them to either point to or grab hold of the "matching" item. Since a ball is a "ball," the children might conclude that the unfamiliar object — the "T" — was the "blicket".

In the direct instruction trial, the child was simply shown an unfamiliar item and heard the nonsense word.

A short while later, Brinster would invite the children to play with typical, familiar toys in the Lab's waiting area. During the relaxed play period, she would bring out a "blicket" or a "dax" that the children had seen during the trial, and ask the youngsters a question.

"For instance, I might say, 'I think one of these is called 'blicket,' but I can't remember which one it is. Can you help me? Do you know which one is the 'blicket?'" Brinster said. "This way, I could ascertain how well they learned the word. Once we analyzed all of our data, it was clear that inference worked best."

Halberda, Brinster's mentor, called his student's results "important."

"While we know that active engagement is the key to rapid learning," he said, "Meredith's result suggesting that knowledge gained via a child's own inferences is sometimes more powerful and longer lasting than knowledge gained through instruction may have powerful repercussions for how we teach new material. These implications have yet to be explored, but this first result is tantalizing."

Brinster's work was funded by a Johns Hopkins Provost's Undergraduate Research Award. One of about 45 PURA winners this academic year, Brinster, a senior, will present the results of her research at an awards ceremony held at Johns Hopkins on March 8. A graduate of Shawnee Regional High School in Medford, she will also present at a meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, to be held in Boston March 29 to April 1.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University. "Kids Learn Words Best By Working Out Meaning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070315213151.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University. (2007, March 16). Kids Learn Words Best By Working Out Meaning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070315213151.htm
Johns Hopkins University. "Kids Learn Words Best By Working Out Meaning." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070315213151.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins