Children’s Learning and Memory of an Interactive Science Lesson: Does the Context Matter?

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Abstract

Children often learn information in a context that is vastly different to the one in which they are asked to recall or use that information. Despite this, little is known about the effect of context change on children’s recall of educational information. Here, 197 5- and 6-year-olds were taught the same interactive lesson in their classroom or on a field trip and were tested after a 1- to 2-day and 6-month delay. The effect of learning context was more pronounced for older children, wherein the field trip yielded more autobiographically rich memories than the classroom, but they learned a similar amount of scientific content in both contexts. Furthermore, especially for older children who learned in their classrooms, their autobiographical memory was predictive of the amount of scientific information they recalled. The opportunity to mentally reinstate the learning context generally facilitated children’s recollection of autobiographical information, but older children were more adept at effectively utilizing the mental reinstatement prompt to retrieve scientific information.

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