Assessing early word learning and early word knowledge with tablets: a web technology–based approach

Lo, Chang Huan (2021) Assessing early word learning and early word knowledge with tablets: a web technology–based approach. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In light of the proliferation of tablets (and apps) in young children’s lives, the overarching theme of this thesis is to examine ways in which the unique affordances of such devices can contribute to young children’s early language development. More specifically, this thesis takes a detailed look at young children’s word learning from tablets and the potential use of tablets as a means to assess early word knowledge.

From the word learning viewpoint, the first three studies, including a pilot study, examined 2- to 3-year-olds’ word learning from a tablet app through two learning modes: active selection versus passive reception. Results from Study 1A suggest a passive advantage in terms of recognition accuracy among 30- and 40-month-olds but no such advantage was found among 24-month-olds. That is, giving children active control over their learning experiences did not appear to benefit children across the three age groups, but passive watching led to better performance among older children. While Study 1B replicated these results with a new group of 30-month-olds from a different cultural and linguistic background, no differences were found across both active and passive conditions using a more implicit looking time measure, suggesting that children learnt equally across both conditions, but there may be performance costs associated with active selection in tasks designed as in these studies.

From the word knowledge assessment viewpoint, Study 2 explored the viability of tablets in assessing early word comprehension among 1-year-olds by means of a two-alternative forced choice word recognition task. Preliminary results indicated that children as young as 18 months can engage meaningfully with a tablet-based assessment, with minimal verbal instruction and child–administrator interaction. The encouraging results further suggest that such assessments have scope for deriving a direct measure of early word comprehension that can supplement parent reports, such as the MacArthur–Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDI), thereby addressing concerns relating to the exclusive use of parent reports and allowing a more complete picture of children’s early language development. In order to facilitate the assessment of early word knowledge, Study 3 sought to develop a language-general approach that produces adaptive short-form versions of CDIs with test items that are maximally informative and derives estimates of full CDI scores based on prior CDI data from language-, sex-, and age-matched children. Results from real-data simulations revealed that the approach was able to efficiently estimate full CDI scores with tests featuring fewer than 25 items—regardless of language, sex, and age—achieving correlations above .95 with full CDI administrations, with high levels of reliability.

Through the combination of web technology and tablets, this thesis also showcases the potential and value of web- and tablet-based methods for collecting data in early developmental research. To make web methods more accessible to researchers, this thesis additionally contributes a new authoring tool, e-Babylab, that allows users to create, host, run, and manage browser-based experiments—without the need for prior technical knowledge. Implications of the results and research limitations, along with possible avenues for future research are discussed.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Stewart-Williams, Steve
Mayor, Julien
Keywords: developmental psychology; early word learning; early word knowledge; tablet-based assessment; CDI; short forms; web technology; e-Babylab
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: University of Nottingham, Malaysia > Faculty of Science and Engineering — Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 65294
Depositing User: Lo, Chang Huan
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2021 04:41
Last Modified: 04 Aug 2021 04:41

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