Combining gesture with verbal instruction promotes problem-solving skills among young children attempting difficult tasks.

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  • Author(s): Hou, Shumeng (); So, Wing-Chee ()
  • Source:
    European Journal of Developmental Psychology. Jan2017, Vol. 14 Issue 1, p87-101. 15p.
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    • Abstract:
      Extensive research shows that caregivers’ speech and gestures can scaffold children’s learning. This study examines whether caregivers increase the amount of spoken and gestural instruction when a task becomes difficult for children. We also examine whether increasing the amount of instruction containing both speech and gestures enhances children’s problem-solving. Ninety-three 3- to 4-year-old Chinese children and their caregivers participated in our study. The children tried to assemble two jigsaw puzzles (with 12 pieces in one and 20 in the other); each puzzle was attempted in three phases. The order in which the puzzles were to be solved was randomized. In Phases 1 and 3, the children tried to solve the puzzles alone. In Phase 2, the children received instruction from their caregivers. The children assembled a smaller proportion of the 20-piece puzzle than of the 12-piece one, suggesting that the 20-piece puzzle was more difficult than the 12-piece one. The caregivers produced more spoken and gestural instruction for the 20-piece than for the 12-piece puzzle. The proportion of the instruction employing both speech and gesture (+InstS+InstG) was significantly greater for the 20-piece puzzle than for the 12-piece puzzle. More importantly, the children who received more instruction with +InstS+InstG performed better in solving the 20-piece puzzle than those who received less instruction of the same type. Those who did not receive +InstS+InstG instruction performed less successfully in Phase 3. However, the facilitating effect of instruction with +InstS+InstG was not found with the 12-piece puzzle. Our findings suggest that adults should incorporate speech and gesture in their instruction as frequently as possible when teaching their children to perform a difficult task. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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