Exploring children’s knowledge transfer
Theory of mind is a skill by which we can understand and explain the behavior of individuals, social interactions, and people’s mental states (such as knowledge, thoughts, beliefs, emotions, desires, and intentions). In the early years, children already recognize the intention of teaching, and by monitoring the mental contents of others, the differences and gaps in knowledge become clear to them. An interesting observation in our study was whether teaching was influenced by position in sibling order, as the number of siblings and the fact that the child was the youngest in the family, based on the literature background, support the development of the theory of mind.
In the experiment, we taught participants between the ages of 3.5 and 4.5 to use a construction game called ball court by presenting video material, and then in practice with the lead of the experimenter. Children then took on the role of the teacher after the learner by having to teach the built-in person how the game works. Teaching as a form of cognition is based on the theory of mind, so we created two different test situations to find out whether the quality and quantity of teaching is influenced by how much prior knowledge the person to be taught presumably has about the tool. In the first situation, the built-in person entered the room only after the teaching phase, but in the second condition, she witnessed the teaching phase.
In our study, model-following, understanding the need for knowledge transfer, and the manifestation of differences in the two conditions were tendentially observed during teaching. Most of the children in the study followed the model in their teaching: the use of verbal communication and showing also appeared, to which most successful implementations were associated. With respect to the two conditions, it seems that teaching how the game works was more successful if the built-in person joined after the teaching phase. Children may have placed more emphasis on knowledge transfer and the teaching process when the individual had no prior knowledge. In addition, in this case, the use of verbal communication and pointing presented by the model, as well as the recognition of device use, appeared to a greater extent compared to the other condition. An interesting result can also be the relationship between a child’s sibling position and success: on the one hand, the children who were the youngest in the sibling order really taught the most, and on the other hand, this was also true for the group of only children.
The need for learning and teaching is also strongly present in the early years, which presupposes the existence of recognition of different knowledge bases. The results of the present research confirm the presence and application of theory of consciousness in knowledge transfer in the early years. Examining children’s teaching processes holds many potential possibilities; could help to understand the development of their cognitive abilities, which would take us one step closer to expanding our knowledge base of children.