Outline ways in which psychologists have studied peer collaboration between children. Discuss the implications of this research for psychological theory and educational practice. Introduction The main way in which peer collaboration in children at school has been studied is through the use of computers in the classroom. The significance of reciprocal peer tutoring amongst young people and the effect it has on their social, emotional, and academic development is of great interest.
Co-operative learning in pairs or groups has proven in some cases to benefit the individual in further cognitive development. The ability to form and sustain relationships gives meaning to learning experiences. Peer collaboration is one way in which these relationships can develop. Responsive interactions enable children to form attachments with others and participate positively in educational activities.
Computers have become an integral part of school and education. There has been much research into the use of computers in schools and how they can enhance social, language and cognitive skills. Teachers and psychologists have studied the results of tests into peer collaboration and computer programming. Technology cannot replace human interaction or relationships, or activities such as reading or conversation but used properly and under supervision they can serve as catalysts for social interaction and conversation’s related to children’s work. Strategies to build socialization into computer use include placing two seats in front of the computer to encourage children to work together, placing the computers next to each other will also encourage group interaction. This is the premise for peer collaboration and the implications of this research for psychological theory and educational practice will be discussed further.
The research that will be examined is that of studies into computer programmes and how children working individually or in small groups fair when completing the programs. The value of peer collaboration will be questioned and its significance in education and learning. There are many issues involved in computer use and peer collaboration. Does it destroy the teacher- learning experience? Or does it create a new learning experience? Is it a socially isolating experience? Or is it an opportunity to interact with other children? Do computers help children learn more efficiently? Do they enable children to think in different ways? Do they make children more confident?
The questions raised here will be answered through the course of this essay. The computer can be seen as a teaching assistant. An example of this can be seen in the program ‘Drill and Practice’, which involves questions and answers with praise words. (Similar to Skinner’s Behaviourist theory). Seymour Papert (1980) designed ‘Logo’, a computer program for school children. He believed in creating an environment for the child where it became second nature for them to learn maths from the computer as learning Spanish in Spain.
He was influenced by Piaget and his theory of development and thinking. He was concerned mainly with the individual aspect of interaction with the computer and its cognitive benefits. The amount of time needed to be spent with logo for its apparent benefits was not feasible and therefore its dramatic influence on cognitive development and intelligence has not been properly studied. Logo is better used under teacher supervision in the classroom.
Clements and Nastasi (1988) found that working on logo or the computer involved more social interaction than Papert had thought. The contrast of social interaction and solitary interaction was in need of further study and observation. Peer collaboration with computers was found to be a genuine interaction amongst children. Bennet (1987) and Galton (1989) observed and supported this view.
They noticed how children talked, interacted and worked alongside each other. Sheingold et al (1984) also noticed how children working on computers collaborated much more than those who did not. These studies highlighted the opportunities for language use and social interaction that technology offers, along with increased motivation to work. Computers can enhance children’s self concept and improve their attitudes about learning.
Crook (1987) discovered that children were using a turn taking style of interaction when using a computer aided learning program. Children interacting at computers can show higher levels of spoken communication and cooperation, such as turn taking and peer collaboration. Mevarech et al (1991) researched into whether children learn better when working together. They used the Drill and Practice software on two groups. One group worked alone and the other in pairs. The results showed that those who worked in pairs did better in all tests. Blaye et al (1991) also found that children who worked in groups performed better than those working alone on complex route planning programs.