The effects of adult guidance and peer discussion on the development of children's representations

Andrew Tolmie, James A. Thomson, Hugh C. Foot, Kirstie Whelan, Sheila Morrison, Brian McLaren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)
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It was hypothesized that practical training is effective in improving children's pedestrian skills because adult scaffolding and peer discussion during training specifically promote E3 level representation (linguistically-encoded, experientially-grounded, generalizable knowledge), as defined by Karmiloff-Smith's (1992) representational redescription (RR) model. Two studies were conducted to examine in detail the impact of this social input in the context of simulation-based training in roadside search skills. A group of 5-8-year-olds were pre-tested on ability to detect relevant road-crossing features. They then participated in four training sessions designed to promote attunement to these, under peer discussion versus adult guidance conditions (Study 1), and adult-child versus adult-group conditions (Study 2). Performance at post-test was compared with that of controls who underwent no training. Study 1 found that children in the adult guidance condition improved significantly more than those in the peer discussion or control conditions, and this improvement was directly attributable to appropriation of E3 level representations from adult dialogue. Study 2 found that progress was greater still when adult scaffolding was supplemented by peer discussion, with E3 level representation attributable to the children's exploration of conflicting ideas. The implications of these findings for the RR model and for practical road safety education are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-204
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2005


  • child psychology
  • child development
  • educational psychology


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