The development of collaborative skills in young children

  • Ann Walker

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines young children's early collaborative development when engaged in joint tasks with both a peer and a parent. It begins by examining how the term "collaborative" has been applied and researched in previous literature. As collaboration is found to usually require dialogue, and intersubjectivity is seen as an important component in the construction of both collaboration and dialogue, the ability to construct intersubjectivity is the subject of the rest of the chapter. The chapter concludes by introducing the research questions that underpin the experiments that follow. A number of experiments are then described. Experiments 1 and 2 investigate age differences in interaction styles and the communication strategies used by similar aged dyads. Experiments 3 and 4 investigate differences due to the age of the child and/or the status of the information giver (either parent or child) in the styles of interaction and the communication strategies used by parent and child dyads. Experiment 5 investigates the benefits of collaborating with a parent, and finally, Experiment 6 examines the collaborative ability of pre-schools. The thesis identifies a series of skills required for successful collaboration. These include recognition of a joint goal and the need to suppress individual desires, the ability to structure joint interaction, moving from role-based to a negotiating style, and communicative skills, for example, asking for clarification. Other reasons for children's failure in collaborative tasks involve task-related skills, such as the development of spatial terms, and failure to recognise the need for accuracy. The findings support Vygotsky's theory that when working with an adult, children perform at a higher level than when working with a peer. Evidence was also found of parents scaffolding the interaction for their children. However, further research is necessary to establish that such scaffolding skills affect the child's development of collaborative interactive skills.
Date of Award2002
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRoslyn Hill (Supervisor)


  • development
  • collaborative skills
  • young children

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