Quality and characteristics of peer interaction

Littleton, Karen (2005). Quality and characteristics of peer interaction. In: Constantinou, C. P.; Demetriou, D.; Evagorou, A.; Evagorou, M.; Kofteros, A.; Michael, M.; Nicolaou, Chr.; Papademetriou, D. and Papadouris, N. eds. Multiple Perspectives on Effective Learning Environments. Nicosia: University of Cyprus, p. 48.

Abstract

The papers in this symposium share an interest not only in the quality but also in the conditions and characteristics of peer collaboration in the classroom. All papers are based on observations of collaboration of primary school children and apply in-depth analyses of verbal interaction. The studies in this symposium address two related issues:

1. The relationship between global and micro-analytic measures for the characterization of the collaboration as well as for the assessment of its quality.

2. The extent to which the quality of collaboration should be assessed in relationship to the conditions of the collaboration, such as the goal, the educational programme of which it is a part, and the nature of the task.

The papers show that global measures (such as Mercer's concept of exploratory talk) are insufficient for characterizing peer collaboration in some circumstances. The description of the quality of collaboration in terms of explicit and accountable reasoning does often not correspond with the reality of actual interactions. Students' attempts to mutually coordinate and integrate contributions go hand in hand with interruptions, overlaps and conflicts (Vass, Haan/Elbers). An increase of students' communicative acts does not always imply an improvement of exploratory talk (Fernandez). The papers share the emphasis on the conditions of peer collaboration. Three contributions (by Vass, Fernandez, and Rojas-Drummond) point to the importance of the task (creative writing compared to a logical reasoning task), whereas De Haan and Elbers draw attention to the role of language skills and the cultural norms for reasoning in a multi-ethnic classroom. Rojas-Drummond et al. argue that the creation of learning communities provides an appropriate context for Children's collaboration.

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