Shared Scientific Thinking in Everyday Parent-Child Activity
Current accounts of the development of scientific reasoning focus on individual children's ability to coordinate the collection and evaluation of evidence with the creation of theories to explain the evidence. This observational study of parent–child interactions in a children's museum demonstrated that parents shape and support children's scientific thinking in everyday, nonobligatory activity. When children engaged an exhibit with parents, their exploration of evidence was observed to be longer, broader, and more focused on relevant comparisons than children who engaged the exhibit without their parents. Parents were observed to talk to children about how to select and encode appropriate evidence and how to make direct comparisons between the most informative kinds of evidence. Parents also sometimes assumed the role of explainer by casting children's experience in causal terms, connecting the experience to prior knowledge, or introducing abstract principles. We discuss these findings with respect to two dimensions of children's scientific thinking: developments in evidence collection and developments in theory construction.