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The Child's Conception of Learning

Författare Ingrid Pramling
Förlag Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis
Förlagsort Göteborg
Publiceringsår 1983
Publicerad vid Institutionen för pedagogik och didaktik
Språk en
Ämnesord Early Childhood Education, Conception, Learning
Ämneskategorier Pedagogik


The research approach adopted in this thesis is that of phenomenography. The focus is on the description of people's conceptions of various phenomena in reality. The phenomenon dealt with is learning, a classic topic of interest in psychology as well as education. The main purpose of this study has been to trace the development whereby children become conscious of the fact that they can learn, and to describe the qualitatively different forms that their ideas of learning subsequently take. The primary stress is on the identification of the different conceptions of learning, but a complementary aim is to account for the extent to which these conceptions can be found at different levels of development. Since conceptions are seen as developed in a context, and since the first official and structured learning milieu the child meets is the pre-school, this was chosen as the context within which children's conceptions are examined. Ideas and reality in pre-school are considered and empirical studies are carried out of some learning situations in which different themes have been worked with to give children some knowledge about the world they live in. The investigation consists of two observation studies and a series of six interview studies, carried out in the form of individual interviews, with a total of 300 children, from the age of 3 to 8 years. The child's idea of learning is dealt with in terms of its two related aspects: what we learn and how we learn. Concerning the first aspect there seems to be a progression from learning TO DO (how or that) to learning to KNOW, and later to learning to UNDERSTAND. To each of these answers to the questions of what there is a corresponding set of qualitatively different answers to the questions of how. Development in this respect goes from an inability to distinguish between TO DO (to know, to understand) and TO LEARN TO DO (to know, to understand), to seeing a transition between a state of BEING ABLE, simply as a function of GETTING OLDER. At the third level, the child realizes that learning (i.e. becoming (more) able) comes about by EXPERIENCE. Experience, again, may have three distinctively different forms, namely, learning by DOING, learning by PERCEIVING and learning by THINKING. There are also developmental differences in the awareness of different forms in which one can learn. This study presents an educational perspective on the metacognitive task of reflecting about one's own learning. In looking at children's conceptions of their own learning in the light of the context of pre-school, it becomes obvious that pre-school education to a large extent relies on conceptions which most children at these ages lack. As a consequence, to create a milieu which makes children aware of their own learning one must begin to look at children's conceptions and educate from the child's point of view.

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