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Adolescents' experience of place : a study of thinking in context

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Robertson, Margaret E 1994 , 'Adolescents' experience of place : a study of thinking in context', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Educators, psychologists, and philosophers have long debated the importance of prior knowledge to learning. Previous research has highlighted the importance of context in learning although most has been related to formal school and classroom environments. The influence on thinking from the totality of informal contexts such as home, neighbourhood and community seem largely unexplored in research. Some neighbourhood differences have been observed in attitudes and achievement but these have been largely undefined or linked to one or two variables such as socioeconomic status and levels of general reasoning ability. In this thesis, the issue of personal context is examined in relation to the place where one lives, the characteristics of related experiences, and ways that these may assist the explanation of differences in adolescents' thinking. By nature, the research was exploratory and eclectic. The aim was for a global approach whereby a broad range of variables could be considered without prejudice from previous understandings. Two studies were conducted. Study One was a qualitative study designed to assess the environmental perceptions of seventy-nine adolescents, located in four places. The primary task was a photograph sorting activity. Phenomenographic techniques were used for the analysis resulting in statistically significant differences between each place group (p < .0001) and support for the hypothesis that place influences adolescents' thinking. Differences in language concepts and visual perception were recorded. The relevance of travel experience and leisure activities to these cognitions was suggested in follow-up interviews. The design of Study Two derived from previous research and information gained from Study One. Two hundred and ten adolescents located in seven places were randomly selected for study. To cross-reference information, a wide range of variables and research methods were included. Data collected related to experience of, and attitudes towards, travel, leisure activities, visual skills, learning and study approaches, attention and concentration, and general reasoning ability. Statistically significant differences were recorded between all places in all thinking skills variables (p < .001) and three of the six learning approaches variables (p < .01). These seemed to be, in part, explained by variations in the types of experiences available to adolescents in their 'place' of residence. It was found that 'rural' adolescents appeared to share strengths in visual skills. Data from 'low income' urban places were comparable as were data from 'high income' urban places. When grouped according to these characteristics, the pattern of statistically significant differences was repeated. Data from Study Two evinced support for the hypothesis that interactions between people and places result in place-specific skills and behaviour. In particular, proficiency in interpreting visual stimuli seemed to be associated with diverse, multisensory, everyday experiences. Both studies highlighted aspects of adolescent behaviour that appear linked to development. These included the need for privacy and concurrent attractions to nature and people. However, in most respects this behaviour was expressed in what appeared to place-specific ways. The two studies appear to support the value of further research into the world views of learners and their prior interactions with place. They also emphasise the value of learning experiences that stimulate the use of diverse skills and abilities.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Robertson, Margaret E
Keywords: Geographical perception, Cognition in adolescence, Geographical perception in children
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1994 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 241-254). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1993

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