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Cognitive structures related to the principle of conservation

Engelmann, S.
This study examined children’s ability to solve problems of the conservation of liquid quantities, testing Piaget’s theory that the necessary skills cannot be taught, but are dependent on cognitive development. Eighty seven kindergarten and first grade students from a middle class school in Urbana, Illinois, participated in this study. All students were administered the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), a Basic Concepts Test, and a Conservation Inventory test to determine the necessary skills present for the conservation of substance prior to the intervention. The students were divided according to the results, placing them into three groups of 15 children: an experimental group, a control group, and a conservator group. Children in the experimental and control groups were matched on pretest scores. Children placed in the conservator group answered all questions on the Basics Concepts Test correctly on the pretest. Children in the experimental group attended four training sessions where they learned how the compensation principle applied to two-dimensional figures. Results indicated that the experimental group demonstrated significant pretest to posttest gains on the Conservation Inventory while the control group made no significant gains. Students in the control group recorded a higher pretest to posttest gain on the PPVT, but not at a significant level. The achievement by the experimental group indicated children can learn the necessary skills to solve problems of liquid conservation, and that learning these skills was not dependent on cognitive development. (Copyright © 2011, National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI). All rights reserved).
Research areas:
Main publication type:
Program Effectiveness
In Book
Direct Instruction; Conservation of liquid; Piaget
In D. W. Brison & E. V. Sullivan (Eds.), Recent research on the acquisition of conservation of substance (pp. 25–51). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

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