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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The effect of parents' conversational style and disciplinary knowledge on children's observation of biological phenomena
by Eberbach, Catherine, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2009, 186; 3400488
Abstract (Summary)

This study was designed to better understand how children begin to make the transition from seeing the natural world to scientifically observing the natural world during shared family activity in an informal learning environment. Specifically, this study addressed research questions: (1) What is the effect of differences in parent conversational style and disciplinary knowledge on children’s observations of biological phenomena? (2) What is the relationship between parent disciplinary knowledge and conversational style to children’s observations of biological phenomena? and (3) Can parents, regardless of knowledge, be trained to use a teaching strategy with their children that can be implemented in informal learning contexts?

To address these questions, 79 parent-child dyads with children 6-10 years old participated in a controlled study in which half of the parents used their natural conversational style and the other half were trained to use particular conversational strategies during family observations of pollination in a botanical garden. Parents were also assigned to high and low knowledge groups according to their disciplinary knowledge of pollination. Data sources included video recordings of parent-child observations in a garden, pre-post child tasks, and parent surveys.

Findings revealed that parents who received training used the conversational strategies more than parents who used their natural conversational style. Parents and children who knew more about pollination at the start of the study exhibited higher levels of disciplinary talk in the garden, which is to be expected. However, the use of the conversational strategies also increased the amount of disciplinary talk in the garden, independent of what families knew about pollination. The extent to which families engaged in disciplinary talk in the garden predicted significant variance in children’s post-test scores. In addition to these findings, an Observation Framework (Eberbach & Crowley, 2009) that hypothesizes how everyday observers become scientific observers is proposed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Crowley, Kevin
School: University of Pittsburgh
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 71/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Science education, Museum studies
Keywords: Biological phenomena, Conversational style, Disciplinary knowledge, Informal science learning, Parents, Science as practice, Scientific observation
Publication Number: 3400488
ISBN: 978-1-109-67238-1
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