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Volume 7 Issue 2 (July 1998), Pages no-no, 143-272

Cooperative Problem‐Solving and Teaching in Preschoolers (pages 143-163)

The current study investigated the ontogenetic origins of children's skills of cooperative problem‐solving in a task involving two complementary roles. Participants were peer dyads of 24, 30, 36, and 42 months of age. Primary dyads were initially presented with an instrumental problem whose solution required them to cooperate by coordinating two complementary actions. To further investigate their understanding of the task, these same dyads were then presented with the same problem but with roles reversed. Finally, after each of these primary participants had demonstrated proficiency in both roles, each was separately paired with a naive peer and given the opportunity to teach the naive partner the task. A clear ontogenetic trend emerged. Even with adult assistance, 24‐month‐old children never became independently proficient at the task. Thirty‐and 36‐month‐old children became proficient mostly independently, but only relatively slowly and without demonstrating extensive amounts of behavioral coordination or the use of explicitly directive language to facilitate coordination. Although they did show evidence of recognizing when a peer was new to the task, children of this age engaged in little explicit teaching of naive peers. In contrast, 42‐month‐old children mastered the task much more quickly than the other children, responded much more quickly and accurately when their roles were reversed, coordinated both their actions and language in the task to a much greater extent, and engaged in more explicit teaching of naïve peers. Results are discussed in terms of the developing social cognitive skills that enable children from 2 to 4 years of age to understand other persons as mental agents with whom they may share mental perspectives.

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