The Latest Research on Children and Learning

The Latest Research on Children and Learning

One of the questions that educational researchers have examined is “Are there individual differences in the things people find interesting? If so, could those affect learning? Do they affect learning?”

One study of preschool children—three and four-year-old children—showed that children had clear, well-developed interests already with respect to the play materials in their preschool. Different kids had different interests. Kids’ interests stayed the same over three weeks so it wasn’t just a matter of kids randomly choosing different activities on a single day when they were observed. Rather, kids consistently went after particular activities that seemed to really interest them

To test whether this had an effect on learning, the children were shown pictures of their interest objects and other objects. The other objects actually reflected the interests of other children in the classroom. The researchers then went on to look at children’s eye-gaze direction and that helped evaluate where the children were focusing their attention, and they were able to show that kids were more likely to look at their interest objects than at the other objects.

The researchers dug deeper and fund that individual interests are enhanced through social support. Social support means the role other people such as parents and teachers play in fostering our interests. Parents support their children’s interests financially by giving time and resources for their kid’s interests, and by showing interest and enthusiasm in the child’s interest. This interest shows a child that their emerging interest is valued, and their competence within their interest area is allowed to grow. Teachers who provide clear structure and monitoring also help students develop interests. If you think about it, structure and monitoring are ways to help students acquire competence, and monitoring in particular communicates the value of competence.

So, what does this mean for you and your child? When you observe that your child has a keen interest in a topic, support their curiosity. Provide them with materials and experiences related to their interest. Go to the Library together and take out some books on the topic. Read to your child at night about their interest area.

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