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5 - Children’s Question-Asking across Cultural Communities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2020

Lucas Payne Butler
University of Maryland, College Park
Samuel Ronfard
University of Toronto Mississauga
Kathleen H. Corriveau
Boston University
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Young children’s questions are ubiquitous around the world, yet question–asking and –answering are cultural practices; we must investigate cultural variation in how these practices develop rather than assume that certain practices are universal. We question an assumption in the literature that children from families of lower income or schooling have “deficits” in cognitive development. In this chapter, we critique deficit approaches and review cross–cultural studies of children’s questions within the frame of avoiding deficit assumptions. We then present findings regarding children’s questions from two studies of family conversation in different communities: a diary study of children’s spontaneous conversations about nature, and a study of parent–child conversations in a sink–and–float prediction task. In both studies, contrary to deficit ideas, we found evidence that children whose parents have lower levels of schooling showed evidence of more science–related reasoning in their questions than did those from the higher schooling group – children in the “basic schooling” group asked more explanation-seeking (not fact–seeking) questions in one study, and more conceptual (not procedural) questions in the other. Asking questions may be a cultural universal, yet our findings reveal diversity and raise questions about normativity, as well as how to define sophisticated reasoning.

The Questioning Child
Insights from Psychology and Education
, pp. 73 - 88
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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