The use of discussion at the kindergarten level to advance cognitive abilities
Sears, Gayle J.
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The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to examine the use of discussion with preschool students for the development of language and cognitive abilities. The study focused on students who participated in 30 one-hour discussion lessons that were presented in an inner-city preschool classroom. The qualitative portion of the study involved an ethnographic examination of the discussion lessons, which were attended by a total of 22 students over a six-week period. Qualitative data were studied to determine how students responded to discussion and how student responses changed over time. The facilitation of discussion was analyzed, and the participation of individual students was closely examined. The quantitative portion of the study involved the analysis of results from assessments of cognitive abilities and expressive vocabulary that were administered before and after the discussion lessons were presented. Following the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, the results were merged to provide an explanation of how and why discussion influenced the measured outcomes. While the quantitative data did not reflect a significant effect from discussion, mean scores increased in six of the seven assessment categories. Merged results suggest that posttest performance was influenced by the level and nature of individual participation. The small sample size in this study presented the opportunity to conduct an in-depth mixed-methods analysis of the use of discussion with preschool students. It is hoped that the thick, rich descriptions provided in this study will provide insights that will be beneficial in the facilitation of classroom discussion.