Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts

Salas Poblete J (2011)
Bielefeld: Bielefeld University.

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Bielefeld Dissertation | English
Supervisor
Rohlfing, Katharina J. ; Dausendschön-Gay, Ulrich
Abstract
This thesis is motivated by the question whether it is possible to use a teaching technique created for animals to propagate children’s learning. I will present two studies designed to evaluate children’s learning success in a word learning scenario and their performance while learning frames, i.e. pragmatic routines. The first study is based on a teaching technique called model/rival training that had been developed by Pepperberg (2002) with the aim to teach words to grey parrots. I adapted this teaching technique to operationalize a controlled comparison between children’s word learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations. This method was guided by similar studies conducted by Pepperberg and Sherman (2000; 2002) who taught social behavioural patterns to autistic children and Akhtar et al. (2001) who compared children’s comprehension of words in dyadic and triadic contexts. Given that Pepperberg and Sherman showed that children with disabilities could profit considerably from triadic teaching and Akhtar contained from testing children’s learning success using word production as dependant variable I focused on the question whether triadic learning enhances word production more than word reception. The results displayed no significant differences in the word production tests of both, the dyadic and the triadic conditions opening up the question what role triadic interaction plays at the onset of language acquisition on other than the lexical level. The second experiment addresses the question of whether an assumed advantage of learning in triadic scenarios could arise on the field of pragmatics. Therefore, the second part of the thesis takes on a different view on language acquisition focussing on the acquisition of contextual knowledge about the situations in which lexical items are typically used, which was operationalized using the concept of frames. I tested the hypothesis that children would learn new communicative routines better in triadic than in dyadic teaching situations, thus, expecting children to learn more unfamiliar words in triads than in dyads. This expectation, however, could only be confirmed when children were confronted with especially difficult tasks, i.e. in cases in which they could not bring in their own previously acquired knowledge on comparable teaching situations, but relied only on information encoded in the situation itself. One possible explanation for the better performance in more difficult tasks could be that children in these situations draw on a cognitively simpler mechanism, namely imitation that allows them to solve the task on a shallower level. They may not acquire a better understanding of the labels, but they are still able to solve the task by simply copying the successful behavior previously presented by a model. In the other conditions, children learned the pragmatic frames just as well in both, the dyadic and the triadic conditions. This work has made use of a teaching technique created for animals to teach words and pragmatic frames to two-year old children. It has shown that children make use of more than language when they are presented with a verbal teaching situation. They also filter part of the implicitly encoded information on how to use language. Thus, it is not enough to learn a word and its referent: Instead, the word has to be experienced and acquired within its natural context allowing for a representation that includes the object-label match as well as the pragmatic frame it is typically encountered in. Here it is where imitation seems to play a crucial role by enabling the child to copy behaviors typically displayed by other people in certain situations. The child, thereby, shifts from the role of observer to that of an active participant in a given frame, which allows him/her to experience the situation in person – a variation of learning by doing.
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Salas Poblete J. Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Bielefeld: Bielefeld University; 2011.
Salas Poblete, J. (2011). Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Bielefeld: Bielefeld University.
Salas Poblete, J. (2011). Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Bielefeld: Bielefeld University.
Salas Poblete, J., 2011. Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts, Bielefeld: Bielefeld University.
J. Salas Poblete, Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts, Bielefeld: Bielefeld University, 2011.
Salas Poblete, J.: Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Bielefeld University, Bielefeld (2011).
Salas Poblete, Juana. Learning words : comparing two-year-olds’ learning success in dyadic and triadic teaching situations embedded in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. Bielefeld: Bielefeld University, 2011.
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