Development of sorting skills in elementary school children

Catherine A. Cameron1, Mary Lou Davidson1
1University of New Brunswick, Canada
Cite this article:  Cameron, C. A., & Davidson, M. L. (1981). Development of sorting skills in elementary school children. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 9(1), 1-8.

Volume 9 Issue 1 | e324 | Published: February 1981 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2224/sbp.1981.9.1.1

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Vygotsky (1962) has described the course of human cognitive growth, stating that children classify first "syncretically" then "complexively", and ultimately "conceptually". The only chronological milestone which he specifies is puberty, at which time the potential for true conceptual behaviour is believed to have developed. This study identifies Vygotsky's phases of conceptual development in normal school aged children. It also examines his assumption that verbal labels are critical to the development of concepts. Thirty 8-year-old and thirty 11-year-old school children were tested using the Vygotsky block-sorting task. One-third of the children at each age were given in original sorting, standard nonsense labels, one-third familiar labels, and one-third no labels. Subjects were subsequently requested to re-sort the blocks with no labels provided, and then to sort a new set of objects using the same dimensions as in original sorting, to test for transfer effects. Both qualitative and quantitative measures of performance indicate that there is a significant change in sorting behavior from 8 to 11 years of age, with complexive sorting predominanting at both ages. The effects of labeling treatments failed to support Vygotsky's contention, at least with children at these ages, that nonsense labels facilitate performance or transfer. However, familiar labels facilitated performance over both nonsense and no labels. Transfer of the originally trained concepts was positive and the relationship between original performance and transfer was significant.
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