Young children’s impressionable use of teleology: the influence of question wording and questioned topic on teleological explanations for natural phenomena

Halls, Jonathan and Ainsworth, Shaaron E. and Oliver, Mary (2018) Young children’s impressionable use of teleology: the influence of question wording and questioned topic on teleological explanations for natural phenomena. International Journal of Science Education, 40 (7). pp. 808-826. ISSN 1464-5289

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Abstract

There is a significant body of research on children's preconceptions concerning scientific concepts and the impact this has upon their science education. One active issue concerns the extent to which young children's explanations for the existence of natural kinds rely on a teleological rationale: for example, rain is for watering the grass, or tigers’ stripes are for camouflage. It has been argued that this teleological tendency hampers children's ability to learn about causality in the natural world. This paper investigates two factors (question wording and topic) which it is argued have led to a misestimation of children's teleological tendencies within the area natural phenomena: i.e., those that are time-constrained, natural events or process such as snow, clouds or night. Sixty-six (5- to 8-years-old) children took part in a repeated-measures experiment, answering both open- and leading-questions across 10 topics of natural phenomena. The findings indicate that children's teleological reasoning may have been overestimated as open question forms significantly reduced their tendency to answer teleologically. Moreover, the concept of teleology is more nuanced than often suggested. Consequently, young children may be more able to learn about causal explanations for the existence of natural phenomena than the literature implies.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Science Education on 26 March 2018, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/09500693.2018.1451008
Keywords: teleology; teleological explanation; natural phenomena; young children
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2018.1451008
Depositing User: Ainsworth, Shaaron
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2018 15:31
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2018 10:00
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/50357

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