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Title: The effect of collaborative learning on the problem-solving skills of children with Down syndrome
Author: Goodall. Karen E., K. E.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis examined the effect of collaborative learning on children with DS through three inter-linked studies. The first study investigated unstructured collaborations on a Lego construction task in children with DS who were paired with developmentally age-matched children with non-specific learning disabilities (NSLD) and in pairs of similarly-matched TD children. Pre- to post-test score comparisons demonstrated significant improvements for participants with DS but not for NSLD or TD participants. Improvements made in a control group of children with DS suggested that repeated exposure to the task might have had some beneficial effect, although the results also suggested that collaboration was the more important variable. Qualitative analyses of interactions found no group differences in the proportion of time spent off-task, amount of eye contact or amount of off-task speech. Proportionally, the participants with DS used as much speech indicative of cognitive conflict as the TD participants and showed the least negative speech. They also, however, produced significantly less goal-directed speech than did the TD participants. The second study sought to determine whether collaboration with a peer could facilitate conceptual understanding in children with DS. Groups of non-conserving children with DS and children with NSLD were paired with conserving children with NSLD on conservation of number and conservation of matter tasks. Comparison of pre- and post-test understanding of conservation indicated that following collaboration, the participants with DS showed improvements on the conservation of number task but not on the matter task; children with NSLD showed no improvements on either task. The results seem to support the Piagetian notion that socio-cognitive conflict after exposure to a differing viewpoint can lead to cognitive advancement in children with DS. However, as exposure to a more advanced model also constitutes a tutoring model, the results can equally be interpreted from a more Vygotskian perspective. The third study assessed the extent to which children with DS were able to benefit from contingent teaching, or 'scaffolding' by comparing the effects on performance on a spatial matching task of two adult-led interventions (direct teaching or contingent teaching) with a control condition. Participants in the contingent condition showed significant pre- to post-test gains as well as improvements on a similar task for which no intervention had been implemented. Participants in the two other conditions showed no significant gains, suggesting that for children with DS, contingent teaching is more effective than strategies in which a solution is explicitly taught. The findings from the three studies suggest that collaboration, either with peers or adults, may work for children with DS at two levels: at the cognitive level, by encouraging them to reflect on and consolidate existing knowledge, and also at a more affective level, by deflecting counterproductive approaches to problem solving. The findings are discussed with reference to Piagetian and Vygotskian theories of collaborative learning and implications for educational practice are considered.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available