Project members:

Åsa Harvard (25%), Peter Gärdenfors. Peter Gärdenfors is the head supervisor of the dissertation project. Secondary supervisors are Mikael Jakobsson, Associate Professor in Interaction Design (temporarily replaced by Per Linde, PhD in Interaction Design, Malmö University) and Robert Ramberg, Professor in Computer- and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University.

Aim of project/main objective/main hypothesis:

The aim of the project is to contribute to the design of effective learning materials (toys, games and educational materials) through a better understanding of learning in children’s peer groups, in the context of preschool and afterschool care.

The learning contexts investigated in the project have in common that children are free to engage or not in the learning activities proposed by the researcher. As a consequence, the issue of why children choose to engage in learning a new game or a new activity becomes important.

This is described through a model where the learner faces two questions: Is this learnworthy (what are the potential benefits)? Is this learnable (what are the chances of succeeding)? This leads to the following research questions:

  • How do children use other children in the peer group to determine the learnworthiness of a skill or activity?
  • How do children determine the learnability of a skill or activity?
  • How do children use other children in the peer group as learning resources (through observation, imitation, as tutors or tutees)?

Why is this project interesting?

There is a widely shared consensus among practitioners, parents and researchers that play is important for children’s learning, and moreover that learning through play is more enjoyable and less effortful compared to learning in a formal context. This project takes another stance: instead of considering children as passively drawn towards fun and play, children are modelled as strategic and intentional in their orientations towards learning.

The next step in this project will be probing the advantages of the above approach as a tool for designing learning activities and learning artifacts for use in children’s peer groups.

Progress since last report:

During February and March 2013 Åsa Harvard conducted field studies with children in afterschool care in the projects partner school in Malmö. The aim was to study how children engage in mathematic games in the context of after-school care, and how children use the peer group as a resource for learning through observation, imitation and instruction. The recorded material (video of children playing math games, interviews with teachers and pedagogues) will be the basis for Åsa Harvard’s dissertation.

Fall 2013: presentation of the learning theory  part of the project to audiences of preschool teachers in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm.

Plans for the next semester and in the long term:

February 2014-January 2015: Finalizing analysis of video clips, writing up the dissertation

Potential applications (diagnostic tools, methods for other research areas, for society):

Development of learning activities for afterschool care/preschool settings, teaching materials, games and toys.

Publications :

Åsa Harvard and Mikael Jensen(2009) editors of the anthology ”Leka för att lära” ( Play to learn). Lund: Studentlitteratur

Åsa Harvard (2009) ”Imitation och design för lek: exempel från tre sandlådor.” In Harvard and Jensen, eds. Leka för att lära. Lund: Studentlitteratur

Peter Gärdenfors (2009) ”Lek ur ett evolutionärt och kognitivt perspektiv” In Harvard and Jensen, eds.: Leka för att lära. Lund: Studentlitteratur

Peter Gärdenfors (2011): “IT kan revolutionera läromedlen”, Kritisk utbildningstidskrift, Nr 142-144, pp. 50-61.

Peter Gärdenfors (2011): “Lektionens dolda regler”, Specialpedagogiskt magasin, Web chronicle, September 9.

Conferences, workshops, lectures, invited talks:

Åsa Harvard has presented her research at Lärandedagarna i Lund, June 2011, 2012 and 2013. She has also presented her research at Förskolans Rikskonferens during the fall of 2013, in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Peter Gärdenfors has given, and continues to give, a large number of lectures to various school auditoria since the publication of his book Lusten att förstå in April 2010.

Collaborations within CCL

This project has shared focus areas and an ongoing dialogue with the research by Agneta Gulz and her group on digital tutees, and with research on peer observation learning by Birgitta Sahlén, Victoria Johansson and Emily Grenner.

Collaborations outside of CCL

Malmö University, School of Art and Communication. A design-oriented research environment with focus on interaction design.

For her field work, Åsa Harvard has initiated a collaboration with a local school (not named, to ensure the pupils’ anonymity). During her field work, she has visited the school during after school care, bringing mathematical board/card games and documenting children’s use of games in relation to learning of mathematics.