A cognitive approach to how children understand the concept of death as scientific knowledge
Zamka, Ghada Ibrahim
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2016 Ghada Ibrahim Zamka. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
This study focuses on children’s cognitive understanding of the concept of death from a scientific perspective. The investigation is conducted through the sub-concepts of understanding death - irreversibility, inevitability, universality and non-functionality – derived principally from the work of Jean Piaget. I propose within this study that children’s understanding of these subconcepts is mirrored by their understanding of astronomy as the concept of death includes the idea of hidden phenomena, disappearing, existence, and non-existence, alternation or seriation (death after life) and time. Whilst these concepts are part of other sciences such as physics, cosmology and mathematics, these particular phenomena are only found in the scientific field of astronomy. Specifically, therefore, instead of investigating their understanding of the concept of death through the knowledge of cessation, it is an investigation of their knowledge of the concept of time. The study thus includes the concept of time within the sub-concepts of death to judge the children’s understanding of death. The study employs qualitative methods, uses the interpretive paradigm, and relies on investigating the children’s knowledge of astronomy in order to find out how they construct their understanding. This is related to the common cognitive thinking that children do in their daily life with the phenomena of astronomy. To support this investigation, two common children’s stories are used as tools of the study, in order to probe their cognitive thinking. The first story focuses on the concept of death. The second story focuses on the knowledge of astronomy.
The sample includes 21 children from ages 4 to 9 years. The results show that children have a schema of cognitive thinking based on inferences and scientific knowledge that enables them to understand the concept of death beginning at age four. They are able to make logical inferences inductively and deductively. They show that they have developed cognitive concepts, which allows them to classify scientific from non-scientific knowledge. Their understanding of the concept of time and the phenomena of astronomy support them in understanding that death is inevitable, universal, irreversible and non-functional.
Children in this sample reflect that they understand non-functionality as they relate it to the concepts of non-existence, invisibility and disappearance from the environment. This study finds that educational intervention can confirm these insights. Inductive and deductive strategies can be used when dealing with the concept of death. The study also sheds light on children’s knowledge of astronomy as a way to acquaint children with the concept of death as scientific knowledge.
- Department of Education, The University of Hull
- Qualification level
- Qualification name
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