Macquarie University
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The effects of collaboration on spatial reasoning task performance

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posted on 2022-03-28, 17:40 authored by Signe Moa Duff
In the current study, I aimed to investigate the effect of children's collaboration on a spatial reasoning task as part of a larger study on spatial reasoning in the primary school. Existing research on collaboration show both advantages and disadvantages of working with other people. From a cognitive science perspective, research investigating the influence of collaboration on cognitive processing shows potential costs. This research has typically focused on adult populations and using encoding and retrieval paradigms to assess performance. None has focused on children performing other ecologically valid tasks, such as spatial reasoning tasks. Educational research into collaboration is broader in scope and most comes from mathematics education research, showing predominately advantageous outcomes for collaborators across a range of settings, but no research has investigated the effect on spatial reasoning. Spatial reasoning is, among other things, the ability to mentally form and rotate images and objects and it has been positively linked to STEM outcomes. The participants comprised 76 primary school students from Years 1 and 2 (6-8 years). Students were drawn from a metropolitan school and classes were allocated within Year group to one of two conditions: individual or collaborative. Scores on Raven's Progressive Matrices were used to ensure both that the groups were equivalent in spatial reasoning skills, and to pair students of similar ability in the dyads. The researcher observed students solving two spatial reasoning tasks; tower and bridge constructions. Data were collected in the form of measurements and photographs of the constructions and audio recordings of the dyads' conversations. On the first testing occasion, all students in both conditions individually solved the task. During the second testing occasion, half of the students worked individually (individual condition) while the other half worked in their dyads (collaborative condition). In the analysis, the students in the individual condition formed nominal dyads for comparative purposes between the conditions. A mixed method ANOVA (2x2x(2) was conducted indicating overall significant differences in favour of the collaborative group, and in particular for Year 2, as well as a 3-way interaction with Condition by Year by Task. Followup simple effects analysis indicated a positive significant difference for collaborating Year 2 students on the second task but not for Year 1. A secondary analysis of the data was conducted for qualitative differences in the students' levels of spatial structure in their construction process. Photographs were coded for one off our spatial structural levels: pre-structural/emergent, partial structural, structural and advanced structure. The analysis indicated the relative proportion of students at each level; Prestructural/Idiosyncratic, Emergent or Partial Structural, Structural, and Advanced Structural respectively. The findings support the notion that spatial structural development progresses from Years 1 to 2 and that collaboration did not affect the level of structural development i.e., students at each level were represented equally from both groups, dyads and individuals. The findings are discussed in relation to theoretical and pedagogical approaches to developing spatial reasoning and implications for mathematics education and cognitive science research.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Theoretical framework and literature review -- Chapter 3. Methodology -- Chapter 4. Results -- Chapter 5. Discussion, implications and conclusions -- References -- Appendices.


Bibliography: pages 87-96 Empirical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Educational Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Educational Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Penny Van Bergen

Additional Supervisor 1

Joanne Therese Mulligan


Copyright Signe Moa Duff 2019. Copyright disclaimer:




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