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Learning in the early years: setting up foundations for life-long learning

February 5, 2020

1818 H Street, N.W. Washington DC, 20433, at the Main Complex - MC building’s 4th Floor, Room 800 (MC 4-800)

  • When: February 5th, 11:00am-12:30pm

    Children are born learning. And learning that happens in the early years (0-8 years) sets the foundations for all learning in life. Understanding what, when, and how young children learn and develop is essential to helping countries prioritize the critical elements of education—both during early childhood and beyond. In this talk, Dr. Elizabeth Spelke will share insights from the growing science of child development and learning, including what is unique about the early years, and why and how this matters for policy design and reducing learning poverty. She will present findings from her extensive research on child learning, including interventions that explore the effectiveness of play-based math curricula for young children, and ongoing research on the inter-generational transmission of learning skills.

  • Elizabeth S. Spelke

    Marshall L. Berkman Professor of Psychology

    Spelke’s laboratory focuses on the sources of uniquely human cognitive capacities, including the capacity for formal mathematics, the capacity for constructing and using symbolic representations such as maps, the capacity for developing comprehensive taxonomies of objects, and the capacity for reasoning about other humans and their social groups. Spelke studies these capacities by investigating their origins and growth in human infants and children, by considering human cognition in relation to the capacities of nonhuman primates, and by comparing the capacities of humans from diverse cultures. Current projects investigate: (1) how infants and children recognize objects, extrapolate object motions, and group objects into functional categories such as foods and tools; (2) how infants and children recognize human agents, reason about their goal-directed actions and mental states, and use other people as sources of information about objects; (3) how infants and children develop knowledge of natural number and arithmetic, and how they come to master number words and symbols; and (4) how infants and children represent space and reason about geometry. The core of Spelke’s research uses behavioral methods and laboratory-based tasks to investigate the concepts and cognitive capacities of infants, children and adults. Through collaborations with anthropologists, behavioral biologists, cognitive neuroscientists, and educational psychologists, Spelke has extended her studies of human cognitive capacities to a broader range of populations, settings, and methods.