Young children's talk about learning events

Karen Bartsch, Keith Horvath, David Estes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


In order to understand children's conception of knowledge acquisition better, everyday uses of the terms "learn" and "teach" were examined. Longitudinal data obtained from CHILDES (MacWhinney & Snow, 1990) included 329 target term uses and related references by children (N=5, aged 2;4-7;3) and 431 by adults talking with them. Each reference was coded for mention of what was learned, when, how, and where learning occurred, who learned, and who taught/told, among other topics. Children and adults referred most frequently to what was learned and who learned/taught, and less frequently to when, how, and where learning occurred, a pattern that did not change as children aged. Consistent with earlier experimental reports, children talked mostly about their own learning, rarely mentioning sources of knowledge besides other people (e.g., teachers). Behavior learning was mentioned more than fact learning. Implications for characterizations of children's developing conceptions of knowledge acquisition, for past and future experimental research, and for education were discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-193
Number of pages17
JournalCognitive Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003


  • Knowledge acquisition
  • Language
  • Learning
  • Metacognition
  • Theory of mind


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