How do children learn? One feature for young children’s learning is that it is incredibly social: Not only do they learn directly from what other people say or do; they also draw rich inferences from how others say or do. By examining how social interactions shape children’s inferences and learning, my ultimate goal is 1) to address the theoretical question of why human species is uniquely efficient in accumulating knowledge, and 2) to inform how parents and educators could better facilitate children’s learning in formal and informal educational settings.
Questioning in teaching and learning
Asking questions has long been seen as a core component of teaching and learning. But why should questions elicit learning? My research examines the cognitive mechanism behind learning through questioning. Using experimental, observational, interventional and computational methods, I examine how children learn from pedagogical questions--questions asked by a knowledgeable person who intends to teach.
Human children are judicious imitators. They imitate to learn new skills, to follow social norms, and to simply have fun. My graduate research explores how variations in children's imitative behavior reflect these different motivations. I examine 1) how social contexts affect children's imitative response, and 2) how individual differences in imitative behavior relate to children's age, cognitive capacities, temperament, and social experience.
My third line of research examines how learning is affected by the order of how information is presented: For example, will children be more likely to infer teaching when information is presented in a well-timed, clearly focused sequence? Will they learn differently after watching an identical set of actions and events being presented in different orders? I examine these questions in the context of causal learning.