Self-Directed Information Gathering Improves Learning in Young Children

Abstract

Self-directed learning, defined as the ability to choose what to learn about, represents a unique educational opportunity. We test the effect of self-direction on learning outcomes in children (N=32, age range=3-5 years) in a novel word-learning task conducted via touchscreen tablets. Study participants were randomly assigned to one of two learning conditions: one in which learning was self-directed and one in which it was not. Children in the self-directed condition performed better on a recognition task, controlling for subject and item effects. Our results suggest that self-directed learning facilitates information retention in children, in line with previous work that has found improved information retention using self-directed learning paradigms in adults (e.g., Markant, DuBrow, Davachi, & Gureckis, 2014).


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