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Durham e-Theses
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Social learning and creativity in children in informal learning environments

MURSIC, ZARJA (2019) Social learning and creativity in children in informal learning environments. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Social learning, together with innovation, form the pillars of human culture. The vast majority of research regarding innovation and social learning uses artificially created tasks (e. g. puzzle boxes) with clear goals. Studies with children are performed in nurseries, psychology laboratories and in separate rooms in science centres. This enables studies to have high experimental/internal validity. However, it is not known whether these findings also explain behaviours outside of controlled environments.

In this thesis I explored how social learning and creativity could be studied in the context of an informal learning environment (Life Science Centre, Newcastle) using an open-ended task, representing a context of increased ecological validity. In Chapter 3 I explored how direct instructions, scaffolding (open questions) and no instructions impacted children’s exploratory behaviour and their creativity when building with shapeshifting wooden blocks that constituted an existing exhibit in the science centre. In Chapter 4 I used an exhibit, the Interactive Research Pod (IRP), which was developed through cooperation between Durham University academics and Life Science Centre practitioners to study social learning and creativity “in the wild” whereby no experimenter is present and instructions, cameras and ethical assent is automated. I studied children, who were using building blocks, in social (transparent partitions), asocial (opaque partitions, building at or around the same time) and asocial control (opaque partitions, different day). In Chapter 5 I used the IRP to enable children to freely interact whilst building and investigated social learning and cooperation as well as the originality of the final structures. In all three studies I used a newly developed web application to evaluate the creativity of the structures children built. I recruited adult raters to acquire a relatively objective measure of the subjective value of the originality of the wooden structures. I used Bayesian statistical methods to analyse the data.

Overall children built diverse structures and were not strongly impacted by the conditions (direct instruction, scaffolding, no instruction, social, asocial learning and cooperation) they were in. The findings of the thesis complement existing data regarding social learning and creativity in children in more controlled environments and demonstrate the utility of conducting such studies in ecologically valid contexts, despite the inherent issues of internal validity.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:social learning, children, creativity, science centre
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jul 2019 08:25

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