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Adult-child co-viewing of educational television: Enhancing preschoolers' understanding of mathematics shown on “Sesame Street”

, Columbia University, United States

Columbia University . Awarded


Can adults help children to understand the content in preschool educational television by watching shows with them? Research indicates that co-viewing occurs rarely and has mixed benefits for learning. This study investigates the idea that a special kind of adult-child co-viewing, namely "dialogic viewing," in which adults ask open-ended questions and encourage the child to make elaborations as they watch together, can produce desirable outcomes for preschoolers.

Two kinds of dialogic viewing methods were created: one focused on mathematics (the Math condition), and one focused on the storyline and social/emotional issues (the Social condition). Preschool children were randomly assigned to one of three viewing conditions (Math, Social, or Control). In the two dialogic viewing groups, the adult performed according to a flexible script, stressing either math or social content. In the control group, the adult initiated virtually no interaction. Subjects in each condition were shown one of two video segments. "Square Game" focused on geometric ideas and "Snow White" on subtraction. Matched pairs of subjects watched their assigned video segments twice, along with an adult. Subjects' mathematical and non-mathematical behaviors were coded from videotapes made while they viewed the videos. Also, pre-tests and post-tests assessed relevant mathematical knowledge, and a post-test examined comprehension of mathematical and social/emotional aspects of the videos.

In the case of both videos, the math and social dialogic viewing interventions elicited more mathematical and non-mathematical behaviors than did the Control. However, "Square Game" viewers in all conditions – even in Control groups – outperformed "Snow White" viewers in several math-related and non-math-related behaviors. Analyses also indicate that "Square Game" viewers in the Math and Social conditions also had significantly higher social/emotional comprehension and geometry scores than did the Control viewers. "Snow White" viewers in these experimental conditions did not show these kinds of significant differences between groups. These findings, as well as the limitations and implications of this study, are discussed. The overall conclusion is that dialogic viewing, whether it focuses on a math or a social/emotional topic, can have a beneficial effect on children's viewing of certain television shows.


Morgenlander, M. Adult-child co-viewing of educational television: Enhancing preschoolers' understanding of mathematics shown on “Sesame Street”. Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University. Retrieved February 25, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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