Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching & Learning


The purpose of this study was to develop a better understanding of how preschool children learn from other children in shared activities. Shared activities provide opportunities for children to assist each other in a meaningful social context. The question directing the study was: how do preschool children assist other children to learn in teacher designed learning centers and in child directed free play activities?

In order to discover how and when children are learning from other children, an observational study of one universtiy campus child care center was conducted over a period of seven months. Initial investigations included observations of the whole center and were conducted throughout the day, at least three days a week. Eventually the study was condensed to one key classroom and to free play activities orchestrated by the children and learning cent ers structured by the teacher. While the primary mode of inquiry for the study was child observations, informal interviews with teachers were also conducted.

Analysis of the data revealed several patterns. The opportunity for children to work in both same-age groups and mixed-age groups was beneficial in the learning process. Most of the shared activity was between pairs of children rather than three or four children. Language was an important part of the assistance children gave to each other. Even physical assistance and demonstration was usually accompanied by verbal assistance. It was important for a child acting as an ‘expert’ to provide assistance to another child, a ‘novice,' within the novice’s Zone of Proximal Development. Computers were shown to be a very popular shared activity in this classroom. Teachers both directly and indirectly fostered children learning from other children. Indirectly teachers set up the classroom environment so that collaboration could occur, and directly teachers influenced children learning from other children by encouraging children to help each other and by modeling assistance themselves.