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Islands of Expertise: Describing and Investigating the Impact of Knowledge on Parent Child Talk

Palmquist, Sasha Dawn (2005) Islands of Expertise: Describing and Investigating the Impact of Knowledge on Parent Child Talk. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This research explored how young children's nascent scientific thinking is supported and encouraged in the context of everyday family activity. Using children's knowledge of dinosaurs as the example domain, we investigated: What is included in the knowledge base of children developing dinosaur expertise? How does a child's level of dinosaur expertise impact parent-child conversations as they visit a dinosaur hall in a natural history museum? In study 1, we developed a knowledge assessment that explored children's behavioral and categorical knowledge about dinosaurs. Participants' ability to think scientifically about inferred characteristics like diet, locomotion, and coexistence when directly asked to do so allowed us to refine our definition of the kinds of knowledge and skills that can be supported by an island of expertise. In study 2, we investigated the ways that child knowledge influences family interactions in an informal learning environment. Dinosaur Hall provides a space where parents and children can actively negotiate learning conversation roles. While parents acted as primary information mediators for children with novice understanding of dinosaurs, we found that expert children, empowered by their knowledge, assumed responsibility for initiating more sophisticated topics of conversation within the family group while visiting Dinosaur Hall. These findings reinforce the hypothesis that family conversations in everyday settings can act as a mechanism through which islands of expertise knowledge supports early understanding of scientific thinking at the systems and process levels, as well as categorical and taxonomic levels.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Palmquist, Sasha Dawnsap9@pitt.eduSAP9
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCrowley, Kevincrowleyk@pitt.eduCROWLEYK
Committee MemberSchunn, Christianschunn@pitt.eduSCHUNN
Committee MemberSchooler,
Date: 18 October 2005
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 1 July 2005
Approval Date: 18 October 2005
Submission Date: 19 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: childhood expertise; conceptual change; informal learning environments
Other ID:, etd-08192005-084540
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:00
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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