A study into the discussion skills of nursery school children
The research comprised of three studies which examined the discussion skills of preschool children in different contexts. The first study was concerned with how frequently pre-schoolers could use complex linguistic strategies (such as giving justifications) in conflict situations, and in relation to gender, class and play activity. The second study was very similar to this but examined how complex speech acts were produced in a co-operative context. It was found that children could produce complex language relatively frequently in both conflictual and co-operative contexts. No substantial sex differences were recorded for the complexity of speech acts used but there were significant variations noted for class in Study 1, with children from the privately run nursery showing greater linguistic competence than their state-school peers. Play activity had a marked effect on the type of dialogue produced. Skilful language was associated with symbolic play whereas sand & water activities and individual pursuits were characterised by predominantly simple speech. The final study primarily built-upon the results obtained in Study 2 which had revealed that one specific pattern of dialogue often led to the production of complex speech. In order to further improve this output, this Particular pattern of speech was encouraged via a scaffolding procedure. This was successful in increasing the amount of individual complex speech strategies produced, but was less effective in frequently eliciting the required dialogue pattern. Overall, it was demonstrated that preschool children were linguistically more competent than many theorists or educational guidelines have suggested. Moreover, it appears that young children are able to engage in complex speech in both conflictual and co-operative situations, although it was also shown that the type of play activity may influence these discussion skills.