Pressler, Shirley J. and Erwin, Phil (2008) Friendship and ‘talk’ as a facilitator of children’s learning in a ‘natural’ classroom setting: exploring ‘talk’ and ‘task progress’ to inform classroom practice. In: Qualitative Methods in Psychology Inaugural Conference 2008, 2-4 September 2008, Leeds University. (Unpublished)

Children were observed ‘talking’ whilst working in small groups together on a problem analogy task in a familiar educational setting, a side room to their classroom where similar tasks were regularly undertaken.

This study aimed to explore analogy, peer support, and friendship, all previously shown to have an impact on children’s problem solving. Children in small groups of four were asked to talk to one another around a task that was used to simulate ordinary classroom requirements, that is, whilst solving a problem analogy. Social exchanges were observed amongst groups consisting of either (i) four friends, (ii) four acquaintances, or (iii) a mixture of two friends and two acquaintances, separately for boys and girls. Conversation was analyzed in terms of types of ‘talk’ (e.g. disputational, cumulative and exploratory) in conjunction with sophistication of problem analogy outcomes across the different friendship groups. Varying patterns of communication, as evidenced in the ‘types of talk’, in relation to progress with the ‘task’ were evident for the different friendship groups, which also appeared to differ in respect of gender. Complexities in communication related to friendship and gender and the implications for classroom practice, especially that concerning collaborative learning or that involving conflict and/or co-operation are discussed in connection with what constitutes ‘progress’ for the learner. It is concluded that the research findings may have implications in respect of the ‘outcomes’ focused orientation of current educational policy in the UK.

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