Developmental Science

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Volume 21 Issue 6 (November 2018), Pages

Questioning supports effective transmission of knowledge and increased exploratory learning in pre‐kindergarten children


How can education optimize transmission of knowledge while also fostering further learning? Focusing on children at the cusp of formal schooling (N = 180, age = 4.0–6.0 y), we investigate learning after direct instruction by a knowledgeable teacher, after questioning by a knowledgeable teacher, and after questioning by a naïve informant. Consistent with previous findings, instruction by a knowledgeable teacher allows effective information transmission but at the cost of exploration and further learning. Critically, we find a dual benefit for questioning by a knowledgeable teacher: Such pedagogical questioning both effectively transmits knowledge and fosters exploration and further learning, regardless of whether the question was directed to the child or directed to a third party and overheard by the child. These effects are not observed when the same question is asked by a naïve informant. We conclude that a teacher's choice of pedagogical method may differentially influence learning through their choices of how, and how not, to present evidence, with implications for transmission of knowledge and self‐directed discovery.

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