Garvin Brod’s research is located at the intersection of developmental psychology and educational research. He is exploring pathways to a truly individualized instruction that leverages recent advances in educational technology and insights from developmental psychology. He is particularly interested in developing instructional strategies that are tailored to individual children’s prior knowledge, which strongly determines their learning success. To this end, he is conducting both laboratory and field studies, using a wide array of data ranging from eye-tracking to web log files.
My plans for the fellowship period
A major challenge for elementary school teachers is that children of this age rarely make deliberate and strategic use of their prior knowledge. Children, thus, do not draw meaningful connections between their knowledge and the to-be-learned material, which impedes their learning performance. My recent work has shown that a promising method for activating prior knowledge is to ask learners to generate predictions on an issue before supplying them with the actual facts. We further found that an additional benefit of asking learners to generate predictions is that it creates the opportunity for them to be surprised about events that they predicted incorrectly, which makes them realize that there is a flaw in their concept. During the fellowship, my overarching goal is to investigate how prediction generation can be successfully implemented in science education for elementary school children. To this end, I will conduct laboratory experiments using eye-tracking and classroom studies using tablet-based audience response systems, which are educational technologies that help an instructor to quiz students during class and to chart their learning trajectories.
How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
Catering to the increasing heterogeneity of students in classrooms is a key challenge faced by today’s teachers. There is broad agreement that a response to this challenge could be a more individualized education. Given the usual numbers of children per classroom, this has largely remained a lofty goal thus far, however. Recent advances in educational technologies might provide a key to overcoming these challenges in that they enable teachers to assess and activate prior knowledge at the individual student level. Results of my studies will inform the optimization of instructional curricula and provide guidance for enriching them with educational technology. Overall, my research will contribute to the development of instructional curricula that can be tailored to the needs of an individual child.