The effect of peer collaboration on children's problem-solving ability

Document Type

Journal Article

Place of Publication

The British Psychological Society


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology




Fawcett, L. M. and Garton, A. F. (2005), The effect of peer collaboration on children's problem-solving ability. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(2) 157–169. Available here


Background. A Vygotskian framework links cognitive change to collaborative interaction with a more competent partner whereas a Piagetian perspective supports the view that cognitive conflict arising from peer interaction leads to cognitive change.

Aims. The study investigated the effect of collaborative learning on children's problem-solving ability and whether differences in knowledge status or the use of explanatory language were contributing factors.

Sample. Participants were 100 Year 2 children (aged between 6 and 7 years), from schools in high socio-economic areas, who individually completed a pre- and post-test comprising a block sorting task.

Method. During the experimental phase, children completed a card sorting activity, either individually or in same-gender dyads. The dyads consisted of same or different ability children who operated under either a ‘talk’ or ‘no-talk’ condition.

Results. It was found that children who collaborated collectively obtained a significantly higher number of correct sorts than children who worked individually. However, post-testing indicated that only those children of lower sorting ability who collaborated with higher sorting ability peers showed a significant improvement in sorting ability from pre-test scores. In addition, it was found that when analysis was limited to this particular group, only those children who were required to explain the sort for their partner to carry out improved significantly from pre- to post-test.

Conclusion. It is suggested that perhaps the two theoretical positions are not as mutually exclusive as they are often portrayed. Implications of these findings for teachers and children's learning are also discussed.





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