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3 Year Olds Learn words by inference?


A student ran a research project where 3 year olds learned nonsensicle names to objects to determine which way they learned objects names better.

From a quote in the article:

Interested in how very young children learn to attach the names of objects to the objects themselves, Brinster, 22, of Medford, N.J., 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.

What is interesting is that a 3 year old has different motivations and attention span of older kids. Are they measuring motivation to learn the name of an item or teaching methodologies? Children, and any of us for that matter, will learn better when we are motivated so it stands to reason that you will "discover" words better if you are interested. On the other hand, do parents and teachers have the time and energy to help children "discover" the names to thousands of items in the environment? Generally, we can use direct instruction to teach the names of objects of more interesting things then slowly move to less interesting things. This concept is a form of pairing and shaping - both behavioral processes that are well researched.

Oh well, nothing like having this research twisted to suit the needs of the "discovery" method advocates (mostly teachers). I can just hear it now - "We have research that shows all learning in all grades should be discovery based! It's for the childruuuuuun!"