28 September 2006

Jane Herbert and Mark Blades awarded £100,000 from the ESRC for a two year project

Jane Herbert and Mark Blades awarded £100,000 from the ESRC (the Economic and Social Research Council) for a two year project entitled "Fine-tuning the picture: Learning from television."

The lay summary is below:

Fine-tuning the picture: Learning from television

Within the first two years of life, children show evidence of learning simple actions demonstrated on televised programmes. Therefore, television has the potential to be an important source of information which could expose young children to skills, models, and resources that they might not otherwise have access to in their home or nursery environment. Although very young children do copy some actions and words from television, our previous research indicates that, at least into early childhood, less information is acquired from televised events than from real-life events. Furthermore, surprisingly little is known about what information children actually remember from their viewing of televised information or whether particular features of the presentation could be enhanced to improve learning. Understanding how to enhance media presentations effectively to ensure successful learning and memory of information will play a vital role in improving the educational resources we have available for young children.

The purpose of our research is to evaluate and maximise the teaching potential of television information for 4-year-olds, an age when children are preparing to enter formal education. The proposed research will investigate whether features which have been shown to attract children’s attention to the television like visual effects (such as bright, coloured backgrounds, and animated characters), sound effects (such as interesting or unusual sounds), and verbal information provided by a narrator, can also increase children’s ability to learn and remember information from a video.

In a series of three studies, 4-year-olds will be shown a video of a presenter demonstrating a series of specific and unique actions using a novel object - a magical “colour change” box. Either immediately after watching the video, or after a delay of one week or one month, each child will be given the opportunity to show us and tell us about the actions and events they observed on the video. We are interested in the range of information children learn from the video, how long they remember this information for, and whether they can both show us and tell us about their memories. By comparing across groups we will also be able to determine the extent to which complex effects such as animation enhance or interfere with young children’s learning from television.