(Go back to Thinking and cognition, or to Course assignments, or to Assessment of K-12 learning, or to home page.)

The instructions below are addressed to students, who are assumed to be preservice teachers or else post-secondary level students taking either educational psychology or introductory psychology. It can be used either as a course assignment or as a class activity.

- Seifert Seifert Nov 17, 2010 --with thanks to Gerald Levin (retired), Bucknell University.


This assignment is based on a painting called "Christina's World," showing a girl seated alone in a field of grass. She is facing away from the viewer and is seated on a coat or sweater. Your job is to invite 15-20 elementary-age children to tell a story about the painting, and then to analyze the content of their stories.

Preliminaries:
  1. Get permission from the children's parents before beginning. This usually means sending a brief letter home describing your assignment and requesting permission. Include a return slip which parents can sign. If some children do not return the slip, then use only the children who do return it. If not enough return the slip, then it is fair to send home a respectfully worded second reminder and request. Probably you will get enough volunteers in this way; but if not, then you are out of luck and can not do this assignment.
  2. If you are working from or through a classroom teacher, make sure to get his/her cooperation and support before beginning. He/she may also have helpful suggestions about getting permissions from parents, as well as about any of the details below.
  3. Now collect the stories. In order to make transcripts for analysis, you will first need to tape record the stories. Allow about 5 minutes for a child to tell his/her story.
  4. Once the stories are collected, transcribe them word-for-word. This will take time, but it will be worth it!

Step 1: Theorizing
First, write out a definition of imaginative. Use either your own definition or a dictionary's--whatever you prefer.

Step 2: "Pilot Study"
Now read each of the girls' stories only and decide whether the term "imaginative" applies to it. If it does, record a "1" in the appropriate space below. If it does not fit, record a "0".

  1. _
  2. _
  3. _
  4. _
  5. _
  6. _
  7. _
  8. _

Using these results to guide you, rewrite your definition of "imaginative" so that it is more accurate or useful. Make it longer, if necessary, and/or add examples if that helps to clarify it.

Now revise your rating scale so that it consists of a five-point scale, like the one illustrated below. If you wish and if it works, label each of the points along the scale, and/or even try defining each of the individual points.

Unimaginative ---------- 1 ---------- 2 ---------- 3 ----------- 4 ----------- 5 Imaginative

Step 3: The Full Study
Now use your revised definition of "imaginative" and your revised rating system to rate all the children, including both boys and girls. Record each of your ratings below:

Girls


Boys



1._

4._

7._

10._

13._

16._

2._

5._

8._

11._

14._

17._

3._

6._

9._

12._

15._

18._


Step 4: Interpretation of the Data
  1. Do you see any difference between the boys and the girls?
  2. Did confining the "pilot study" to girls make your definition of "imaginative" less appropriate for the full study?
  3. What factors besides gender may be influencing the results?--e.g. age of children, personality or gender of the experimenter, nature of the picture being described, etc.?
  4. If you were advising another student about how to do this assignment, what advice would you give?

A Variation on This Assignment: Work with one other partner to analyze the data. Have each of you rate the stories independently, without prior consultation. Then compare the results. How closely do they match?

- Seifert Seifert Nov 17, 2010