Eeva-Liisa Kronqvist, PhD University of Oulu
Recent research concerning peer interaction and collaboration suggests that young children’s social understanding is remarkably complex, even quite early in the pre- school years. This seems to be evident especially in children’s conflicts, or events in which children express different needs or goals end emotions (Dunn 1994; Rourke 1999). The idea that social conflict plays a special role in the development of children to understand other people, themselves, and their social world more generally is taken up in number of different theoretical developmental childhood researchers (Erikson 1959; Piaget 1932, 1965).
From the point of view starting the collaboration, initiatives and disagreements are the critical incidents. Initiatives could be seen as the first signs of reorganization of collaboration. They are interpreted as invitations to reciprocal behaviour. The first of the purposes of the current study was to describe the forms of organizing collaborations, initiatives, and social routines in children’s groups. The second purpose was to examine the forms of conflicts and their resolutions during the collaboration.
The theoretical focus of the paper is based on relational-systemic and sociocultural theories and an integrative, the situative, view will be discussed. Peer-collaboration is defined as a co-ordinated activity during which participants collectively process and solve problems towards a joint and shared outcome. Collaboration involves at least two participants; each of them is an open, dynamic, self-organizing system. Thus each individual is not an insular, singular unit, but a relational being that processes and acts constantly in relation to the internal and external context. Each participant brings to a social game a range of potential actions, realizes one such action pattern within the game, and in doing so, creates an often salient context for the other to perceive, detect, process and respond. The actions may change with time, as the range of activities infants may perform in the first year increases due to their emergent capacities for cognitions and actions. (Holt & Fogel 1993.) After Graue & Walsh (1998, 11-12) also contexts are relational. They shape and are shaped by individuals, resources, intentions, and ideas in a particular setting, within a particular time. They are not static. Instead the contexts are fluid and dynamic, constantly reconstituting them within activity. They are social, reflecting and framing interaction (Wertsch 1985).
The particular relationship contexts in this paper will be peer relationships and within these relationships the focus lies on collaboration. Collaboration between children is fundamentally social in nature. They encompass motivational and affective factors as well as communicative and expressive behaviour. They depend on the dynamics and the mutually regulated behaviour. At the same time, collaboration is also
1fundamentally cognitive in nature. It requires planning of behaviour around the goal, adopting goal-regulated strategies and monitoring goal-directed behaviour. (Brownell & Carriger 1998.)
The benefits of peer collaboration can be seen in the co-construction of knowledge realised by the collective sharing of ideas and views between the participants. From this perspective social and verbal interaction as well as other semiotic tools embedded in the learning situation are important resources for the construction of shared understanding. Collaboration helps to create an outcome that no single person could achieve. Research on the influence of peer collaboration and social interaction on cognitive development has...