Do children learn differently than adults? In a research found out that learning strategies can only be successful if the learner meets certain prerequisites. This also has an impact on the work of educators. What learning strategies are best for children.
Teachers should use different strategies subject to the age of their students? The answer to this question may seem obvious to educational practice, but it is surprisingly unclear from the perspective of educational research
There are excellent reviews in the field of learning strategy research that evaluate different techniques in order to identify the most effective learning strategy for all learners. However, it remains unclear whether such strategies are equally effective for all age groups, since most overviews deal with studies by students at universities. In contrast, there is little systematic research on age-related differences in the effectiveness of learning strategies.
But what about the effectiveness of such approaches for children?
In a new study. We compared the learning outcomes of college students with those of primary school children. Participants from both age groups worked on a fact-learning task under two different conditions, whereby the conditions only differed with regard to the generative learning strategy.
CHILDREN LEARN BETTER ABOUT PREDICTIONS
In one case, participants were asked to make predictions about a statement (e.g., “How many mammals in ten can fly?”) Before being shown the correct answer.
In the other case, the participants were asked to give a suitable example, such as: “Can you name a mammal?”
Studies showed that the university students used both strategies equally successfully. Primary school children, however, benefited far more from making predictions than from giving an example. Where does this difference come from?
To answer this question, we need to think about why these strategies are successful in the first place, aside from encouraging learners to apply what they already know. Our research to date has shown that making predictions causes surprise in both adults and children. This is especially the case when what has been predicted turns out to be wrong. Such surprise effects lead to increased attention and better learning success.
CHILDREN’S ABILITY TO MAKE ANALOGUE CONCLUSIONS Matures
Studies have shown that good examples can serve as a memory aid and thus help in retrieving information later. The generation of good examples requires the ability to reason by analogy, which matures at least into later adolescence. So could the under-developed analog reasoning be responsible for the difficulty elementary school children have with example naming?
We tested this by having the children perform a standardized task for analogous reasoning after the learning tasks. In fact, analog reasoning was found to be related to how well the children benefited from example naming. In addition, the more the children were able to use both strategies the more they resembled adults, the better their analogous reasoning was. These findings support the hypothesis that good analog reasoning is a prerequisite for being able to benefit from naming examples as a learning strategy.
Study suggests that teachers should consider the different requirements of different learning strategies when deciding on the use of learning strategies. This is the truth when working with children. Even strategies that seem similar at first glance may require different skills, and these in turn may differ based on the age-related course of their acquisition. It can happen that certain learning strategies are used successfully by university students while elementary school children are not yet able to use these strategies effectively.
TEACHER STRATEGY: NOTE THE AGE AND INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES
Another dimension to the question of which learning strategy is suitable for whom arises from the realization that some children – those with a very good ability for analog reasoning – can definitely benefit from naming examples. There are huge differences between children, and children’s skills can change very quickly, which affects the usefulness of learning strategies.
Therefore, education researchers should seek evidence-based guidelines for selecting optimal learning strategies for each individual child, and these guidelines must take into account the rapidly changing abilities of children. At this point in time, both educational practice and research should keep one thing in mind: what is good for adults is not always good for children.a