Child Trends: Asking “Why?” helps children learn more effectively

A study performed by Californian Developmental Psychologists is showing that asking a child "why?" helps them learn more effectively.

"You’re just asking them to elaborate on something that they’ve already observed, and just that process seems to support learning." Said UCSD Professor of Psychology Caren Walker.

Walker says children who explained what they just saw were more likely to build on previous knowledge. Many studies show that incorporating "why" prompts improves learning in elementary school children.

"What we find is that sort of, regardless of the explanations that they actually generate, just that process of engaging the explanations they’re trying to come up with one seems to be the thing that’s doing the bulk of the work." Said Walker.

Studies have also found that asking "why?" while reading to children has a similar effect.

Professor Walker warns that "why" does not work across the board in learning. sometimes you want children to learn exactly what is in front of them, like a color or a shape.

There’s no data on long-term effects of having preschool-aged kids explain while learning yet, but Professor Walker says she expects the exercise will have a positive influence down the road.



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