Thesis

Referential communication skills and concept development ability

The purpose of the present experiment was to explore the referential communication process and its development. In particular, the intent was to examine the possibility that skill in verbal communication is closely correlated with skill in forming concepts. A referential communication task and the Vygotsky Block test were selected as test instruments; both were of a design suited to preschool subjects as well as to older subjects. Subjects were 95 children chosen from a preschool and from the second and sixth grades of an elementary school. Subjects were considered by their teachers to be within normal limits intellectually, physically, emotionally, and socially; they were drawn from an area of predominantly caucasian [sic], middle-class socio-economic level. The hypotheses were that preschool subjects would show low level skills on both tests, that second-grade subjects would show higher level skills than preschoolers, and that many sixth-grade subjects would show very high level skills. It was expected that subjects showing high level skills on one test would show high level skills on the other test also. Results showed that scores on the referential task increased significantly with grade level, whereas the Vygotsky test scores for all grade levels fell in the middle ranges; statistical correlations of test results were unwarranted. Other important findings include: (1) the Vygotsky task may be a visual-motor problem solving task rather than a concept formation task (2) expressive use of language may inhibit performance on the Vygotsky test, and (3) observations of subjects' performances on the Vygotsky test lend support to Piaget's view of the acquisition of concepts, rather than to Vygotsky's theory of concept development.

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