The conceptual organization of preschool children and its relation with early school achievement

dc.contributor.advisorMcGaughran, Laurence S.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberBaxter, James C.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberMcCary, James L.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberVineberg, Shalom E.
dc.creatorRagland, Rae Shields
dc.description.abstractWithin the context of the theory of development there is a general agreement that cognitive functioning is concrete prior to the emergence of facility with abstraction. Further, there is a consensus regarding typical conceptual activity during sequential periods of time even though there is controversy over the mechanisms that bring about changes. Conceptual functioning is first closely associated with motoric involvement before it proceeds to a state in which physical engagement becomes unnecessary. Imaginal representations begin to anticipate the course of actual events and conceptual operations assume the transductive character of 1:1:1...chained associations. Following this state is one in which individuals are able to isolate particular kinds of events and categories of entities. Finally, these isolated units are organized from parts into integrated whole units. The systematic analysis of this general pattern into specific occurrences is a monumental task that is far from complete. There are important inconsistencies in this general pattern of development. It is possible to observe the same approach in conceptual operation to different content and, also, different approaches to the same content (Szeminski, 1965). Piaget (Hunt, 1969) has employed the term 'decalages' to represent these kinds of phenomena. The dominant type of operation by children during a given age range has been examined primarily by cross-sectional study. There are different approaches in coping with conceptual tasks that seem to typify the tack taken by otherwise comparable individuals. This work, too, has been predominantly cross-sectional although stable conceptual styles in children over a period of six years has been verified by Witkin (1961). There are, then, different levels and types of conceptual operations and further longitudinal study is needed to determine the possible relation of these differences in function to differences in solution of subsequent conceptual problems. One conceptual challenge that most children encounter about their sixth year of life is learning to read, spell, identify numbers, and do arithmetic computations. There is a long standing recognition of the desirability of being able to anticipate if, or how well, a child will be able to accommodate to such encounters. Intelligence tests were initially devised for the purpose of assessing a child's relative potential to meet these requirements. The achievement tests were then developed to provide an assessment of this accomplishment. The intelligence measures have proven helpful, but far from ideal; the achievement tests are inapplicable until some modicum of skill has appeared. Although the need to be able to anticipate development in this sphere is pronounced, it has been difficult to identify specific functions that will adequately predict performance in these areas. The present study is based on the assumption that the state of an individual's conceptual development determines, to some extent, the accommodations he can be expected to make to previously unencountered cognitive tasks. Thus, differences in conceptual development and style would be expected to bear a relationship to differences in the acquisition of new intellectual skills such as those required for tasks introduced in school. Studies by Kuhlman (Bruner, 1966a) and Guilford, Dunham and Hoepfner (1967) have illustrated differential effects of conceptual style upon the learning of new concepts. The most effective assessment of conceptual function is posited to be one that is adapted to the mode of operation expected of the age group of the child being studied. The preschool child of age four years is still quite involved with motoric manipulations (Flavell, 1963; Bruner, 1966a) and has not achieved the ability to provide accurate verbal labeling for many concepts he can demonstrate (Smedslund, 1969). It has been shown that scholastic difficulty during the initial years of school is often associated with perceptual problems (Birch and Belmont, 1965) and that achievement is positively correlated with perceptual 'decentrati on' in the form of the hidden figures test (Elkind, 1965). The hypothesis under investigation in the present study is that the Graham-Ernhart Block Sort test is an appropriate measure for conceptual operations of the four year old child, and that scores from this test correlate significantly with scores from measures of achievement obtained from the same subjects during the first years of schooling. This degree of relationship is expected to exceed that between scores from a measure of intelligence at four years of age and the subsequently obtained achievement scores. A revised scoring procedure for the Graham-Ernhart Block Sort test was developed for use with the present sample since the standard procedure did not appear to reflect fully the behavior sampled by the test. It was anticipated that these revised scores would be more clearly related to achievement scores than would scores derived from the standard protocol method; the latter method does not distinguish adequately between upper levels of success with the test. Results from analysis of the Graham-Ernhart Block Sort test results indicated that it did differentiate among four year old subjects, and that both protocol and revised scores correlate with achievement scores subsequently gained by the subjects. Significant correlations were obtained between the Graham-Ernhart Block Sort scores and scores from the assessment of achievement at age seven years for girls, and at age eight for the boys. These results may be interpreted as illustrating either a slower rate or a different course of cognitive development for boys as compared with girls. The advantage of using one or the other scoring method was found to depend upon the sex of the subject and the academic skill to be measured. As expected, the scores from the Stanford Binet intelligence measure did not correlate significantly with achievement measure scores of either boys or girls.
dc.description.departmentPsychology, Department of
dc.format.digitalOriginreformatted digital
dc.rightsThis item is protected by copyright but is made available here under a claim of fair use (17 U.S.C. Section 107) for non-profit research and educational purposes. Users of this work assume the responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing, or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires express permission of the copyright holder.
dc.subjectAcademic achievement
dc.subjectChild psychology
dc.titleThe conceptual organization of preschool children and its relation with early school achievement
dcterms.accessRightsThe full text of this item is not available at this time because it contains documents that are presumed to be under copyright and are accessible only to users who have an active CougarNet ID. This item will continue to be made available through interlibrary loan. of Arts and Sciences, Department of of Houston of Philosophy


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