Markovian interpretations of conservation learning

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Abstract

Presents a general theory of how children learn conservation concepts. The theory, unlike previous content-specific ones, assumes that there are several formally equivalent routes whereby a conservation concept can be acquired. The acquisition process is described at an abstract level in terms of a rule-sampling system. This description implies a 3-state Markov model with identifiable parameters. Three experiments designed to test the model's quantitative predictions about conservation learning experiments are reported. Data generated by the kindergarten Ss in these experiments are used both to assess goodness of fit and to test several hypotheses about parameter invariance. The theory provides sensible and testable explanations of some empirical phenomena that have traditionally been of interest to conservation learning researchers. Three specific phenomena–age changes in susceptibility to conservation training, stage effects in learning, and transfer of training–are emphasized. Likelihood ratio procedures are developed for testing the theory's predictions in these 3 areas. (62 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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