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Preschoolers’ Multimedia Learning of STEM Vocabulary and Concept Knowledge

Summer 2024

Project Background

Early vocabulary, especially academic vocabulary, is one of the important foundational skills that predict later school achievement and success. According to the previous research, there exists a substantial gap in children's vocabulary knowledge depending on family SES. The vocabulary gap for science terms is particularly important since science vocabulary and concept teaching is not a part of everyday language at home as well as common activities in preschools for children from families of low SES.

Content vocabulary and academic vocabulary instruction for young children often uses media as a tool to introduce words in an engaging way. These media provide explanations (text or narration) and images (illustrations or animations) to describe words and concepts. However, detailed evidence is limited on what kind of specific characteristics in multimedia actually helps children's STEM vocabulary and concept learning. Thus, the current study will explore to identify various parameters of multimedia platform (e.g., existence of agent in the media, visual guidance/cuing, interactivity of the multimedia app), and test the effectiveness of parameters on low-income young children's STEM vocabulary and concept learning. We hypothesized that children's STEM learning would improve if they used multimedia including text easy to understand and engaging while integrating STEM content. This study will test each of the individual multimedia design principles (e.g., agent, cuing, app interactivity) by comparing preschoolers' learning outcome across different learning conditions using a very short multimedia videos on birds. This work will extract detailed evidence on the effectiveness of each of the multimedia parameters.

Student Role

A student will be closely working with the principal investigator and graduate students for almost entire process of the research project throughout the summer period. We expect the final round of data collection of children's multimedia learning will occur as the student starts the SPUR. The student can participate in data collection, then mostly spend their time in data cleaning and analysis. Original data will be cleaned and analyzed in SPSS statistical software and the student will be learning about basic data analysis method. Thus, the student will experience the data collection, data cleaning and reduction, and statistical analysis parts of the research project.

Student Learning Outcomes and Benefits

In addition to the student's familiarity with the current topics in early education and multimedia learning, the student will learn how an experimental educational study will be set up and experience actual data collection, which is the most important aspect of hands-on learning and experience of empirical research studies in education. Most students are familiar with facts and knowledge in educational psychology by reading, understanding, or memorizing them but are lacking understanding of "how" the knowledge is created by "whom."

I expect that this research will provide opportunities for the student to have a better idea of how knowledge in educational psychology is created, what an educational psychology researcher is doing, and what a graduate school will be for. I expect this experience opens not just summer research opportunities with funding but in-depth understanding of the field of educational psychology and its science, which will lead to further interests in an advanced graduate degree and a future research career.

S. Claire (Claire) Son

Associate Professor
Educational Psychology

My teaching/mentoring philosophy is based on the belief that students have innate desires to learn and grow, and when a mentor provides a stimulating environment, it facilitates and changes students' learning. To enable students' learning through a stimulating environment, well-structured learning tasks and expectations are important, in which students can direct and manage their learning. Further, a supportive learning community could facilitate learning, where SPUR student can learn together as a community with a mentor, graduate students, and undergraduate students of the lab. More important, the learning community with multiple members needs to provide multiple perspectives so that students can compare, contrast, and critically evaluate them.
This can be done by multiple activities with different formats with multiple members involved. Specific activities:
Bi-weekly lab meetings: Where PI, graduate students, undergraduate students, and the SPUR student gather together to discuss project prospect and evaluation on what needs to be done, what has been found, what needs to be changed and what the implications are.
Weekly individual check-in's: PI and SPUR student will have one-on-one meetings to go over the weekly goals, expectations, and any questions that the student may have.
Weekly mentoring sessions: The SPUR student will closely work with graduate students in hands-on part of the project, on running observation, and extracting and analyzing data, for example.
Weekly journal reading: PI and the SPUR student will communicate online by emails and google doc, where they will read and discuss previous literature and future study ideas