Scientific reasoning in preschool: The development, correlates, and promotion of control of variables strategy abilities
Scientific reasoning is a critical skill for participating in society and shaping its future. However, scientific reasoning is also difficult and, despite a recent push to promote these skills in education, children and adults still struggle. At the same time, research has shown that very young children and infants have precocious abilities in causal reasoning. For example, they can use covariation information to make causal inferences. These abilities are likely potential precursors for later
... ecursors for later scientific reasoning abilities. A distinction, however, between causal and scientific reasoning abilities is the metaconceptual understanding of theory and evidence and the metacognitive ability to intentionally seek knowledge, for example through experimentation. So, although young children show sensitivity to the informativeness of evidence, it is unclear if they intentionally act to test hypotheses. The present work investigates the development, structure, and correlates of scientific reasoning in three-to six-year-old preschool children using a knowledge-lean task and also investigates the potential to promote these abilities with digital training tools. In Chapter 1, we reviewed the causal reasoning and scientific reasoning literature. In Chapter 2, we found that preschoolers have a beginning metacognitive understanding of their own ignorance as well as beginning abilities in recognizing and selecting a controlled test of a hypothesis. Older children, in particular, were more successful in providing verbal justifications than younger children. In Chapter 3, we found that scientific reasoning was related to and predicted by inhibition and Theory of Mind and that Theory of Mind seems to be an important prerequisite for developing scientific reasoning abilities. Finally, in Chapter 4, we found potential for training experimentation abilities in preschool children using a tablet application and a video tutorial. The findings of this thesis suggest that preschoolers have early abilities in scientific reasoning and that there is potential to further promote these abilities in early childhood education.