Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Metacommunication and problem solving in a collaborative task of young children

Younghee Wang, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The present research attempted to address how metacommunication of young children relates to the products in a collaborative problem solving, along with the three main purposes: first, to investigate the relationship between metacommunicative talk in a dyad and the proper movement of the robot; second, to compare metacommunicative output by the two roles in the robot game, which are Operator and Witness; and last, to examine the increase of metacommunicative talk over the course of the games. To answer the question above, using a small battery-operated robot, 10 kindergartners and 12 first–second graders were asked to play games, which were a collaborative task that requires two children; Operator and Witness. Each dyad participated in three sessions, playing both roles during one session. After quantitative analysis of the data administered to address the three purposes, qualitative analysis was done to detect the in-depth processes between metacommunication and the collaborative problem solving. The relationships between metacommunicative talk in a dyad and the proper movement of the robot were complicated, indicating the relationships are more task-specific. It was found that there is a fair amount of role-dependent variability. Frequencies of metacommunicative output vary from the subcategories of metacommunication. Usage of the subcategories is related to the role that a child plays in the robot games. Adversely to prediction about the last purpose, the metacommunicative usage decreased as the sessions continue. The plausible accounts were addressed about the findings. Qualitative analysis revealed that the children utilized metacommunication for various reasons. They are to clarify statements, to retell previous statements, to prompt the games, to expatiate insufficient instructions voluntarily or with input from the outside, to be aware of linguistic references, to repeat other's statement, to regulate other person's statement in order to stop partner's talk or to start own talking, and finally to integrate a previous statement to the present communication. In coda, the benefits of using metacommunication were acquisition of a correct concept on the instruction given and advancement of communication skills as the game proceeded.

Subject Area

Preschool education|Developmental psychology|Communication|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Wang, Younghee, "Metacommunication and problem solving in a collaborative task of young children" (1999). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9932354.