Using gesture to train three-year-olds in embedded-rule-based causal reasoning
Item statusRestricted Access
Macdonald, Tracey M
The present study aimed to investigate three-year-olds’ understanding embedded rules, and whether encouraging three-year-olds to use gesture improves their application of the rules in a marble-and-ramp causal reasoning task. The 27 older and 17 younger three-year-olds were assigned to gesture and non-gesture conditions. The gesture group were exposed to explanations with gesture and encouraged to gesture during the task. The non-gesture group were given primarily verbal explanations and were not encouraged to gesture. Participants completed a training phase, in which the mechanism was visually accessible, and a testing phase, in which the mechanism was covered, to assess generalization. All groups were significantly above chance in predicting the path of the marble when the marble rolled straight down, at training and testing. Only the older gesture group were significantly above chance when the marble rolled diagonally across the apparatus, and only in the training phase. Statistical analysis showed that the gesture group were more able than the non-gesture group use embedded rules, passing sections using the straight and across rules. Children that introduced new strategies in gesture or used gesture to support correct responses were more likely to improve. Three-year-olds’ explanations of the rules could reveal more knowledge than demonstrated on the task, and those in transition, indicated by a discordant explanation, benefited from use of gesture in the task. Results are discussed in relation to previous findings regarding three-year-olds’ reasoning and the effects of gesture on concept acquisition. Limitations of the study and areas requiring follow-up research are identified, and implications for education are considered.