Contexts of Pattern Learning

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The specific idea motivating this study is that there is a theoretical tradeoff in learning between focus and flexibility. Empirical research explores this tradeoff and the conditions that lead to more or less focused and flexible learning. Sometimes we want to teach children to be very focused and efficient at responding to a particular pattern. Other times we want them to have a broad base of knowledge, that might support future learning or flexible problem solving.

Setting: 

Laboratory experiments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
In-situ experiments and exhibits at the Madison Children's Museum

Research Design: 

The project uses a cross-sectional research design and will generate evidence that is causal [experimental]. Original data are being collected on preschool and young school-aged children using project designed measures of pattern-learning (i.e., Do children learn and generalize patterns present in the materials they encounter?) and measures of transfer, including the speed of learning new patterns. The experiment involves comparing different types of exhibits (those with a very task-focused structure and those with a more exploratory structure) with several alternatives. Analysis plans include statistical comparisons (t-tests, ANOVA models) of learning rates/accuracy across different exposure conditions.

Findings: 

Findings will be posted as they become available.