Psychology professor and students research the learning habits of preschool children

Psychology professor and students research the learning habits of preschool children

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Dr. Sue Kelley, an associate professor of psychology at Lycoming College, and several of her students are researching the effects of live versus animated video instruction on the development of letter and letter sound knowledge in preschool children.

Pictured are, seated: Dr. Sue Kelley and project coordinators Kelly Arendacs and Jennifer Melhorn. Standing from left to right: Stephanie Menagh, Amy Sharlow, Donna DiRocco, Alexander Towle, Bethany Mastronardi, Allison Hurley, Sara Miller, Amy Cline, Shelby Armold and Ashley Demchak.

During the research project that began Oct. 17, 3-year-old children will watch either an animated video that outlines letter names and sounds or interact with a live instructor who will teach them the same letter names and sounds once a week for four weeks. Kelley says any differences in children's knowledge of letters and letter sounds before and after the video/live instruction presentations will be assessed.

Psychology majors Kelly Arendacs and Jennifer Melhorn are completing independent study projects and will be coordinating the research under Kelley's supervision. The other students will be involved in data collection. Some will be assessing children's knowledge of letters and letter sounds, some will be facilitating the videotape presentations, and others will be serving as the live instructors for the children.

"In most graduate programs in psychology, students are expected to participate in and conduct research projects," said Kelley. "Although Lycoming's psychology department incorporates independent research in several of its courses, there is something different about participating in a larger research project. Because we are solely an undergraduate institution, our research assistants are often given more responsibility, such as tasks that may be delegated to a graduate student at a larger institution, and thus are developing even stronger research skills as a function of their participation in research at Lycoming College."

According to Kelley, research by George Comstock and Haejung Paik in 1991 found that children spend more time watching television than engaging in any other activity other than sleeping. This suggests that understanding the effects of television is of major importance. If children spend such a considerable amount of time watching television, then identifying shows that can enhance development is crucial. Although previous research suggests that animated media may be effective in capturing preschool children's attention and that educational programming targeted at preschool children (e.g., Sesame Street) can enhance cognitive development, Kelley says no studies have examined whether animated instruction is more effective than live instruction.

"Given the increasing prevalence of educational videos intended for preschool children, it seems an appropriate time to evaluate the effectiveness of this media," said Kelley. "My research will attempt to fill the gap in the literature by examining whether animated media or live instruction is more effective in enhancing preschool children's knowledge of letters and letter sounds."

Kelley received a Professional Development Grant from the College, which is being used to fund this project.

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