Best, Rachel M.; Dockrell, Julie E. and Braisby, Nick R.
Real-world word learning: exploring children’s developing semantic representations of a science term.
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 24(2),
Assessments of lexical acquisition are often limited to preschool children on forced-choice comprehension measures. This study assessed the nature of the understandings 30 school-age children (mean age = 6;7) acquired about the science term eclipse following a naturalistic exposure to a solar eclipse. The knowledge children acquired about eclipses and a control term comet was assessed at three points in time (baseline-test, 2-week post-test and 5-month post-test) using a range of assessment tasks (multiple-choice comprehension, picture-naming, drawing and a model solar system manipulation task). Children's knowledge at the baseline-test and 2-week post-test was compared with that of 15 adult controls. The analysis focused on the range of knowledge children acquired about eclipses and the relationships between aspects of knowledge they acquired. We found that children acquired extensive knowledge about eclipses, but not comets. At the 2-week post-test, the majority of children were able to produce the term eclipse and provided evidence of accurate comprehension and wider conceptual knowledge about solar eclipses, which was retained at the 5-month post-test. Further, children's ability to produce the term was related to their acquisition of `rich' semantic and conceptual knowledge.
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