Learning with friends and strangers: partner familiarity does not improve collaborative learning performance in younger and older adults

Catherine J. Crompton*, Maria K. Wolters, Sarah E. MacPherson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Collaborative learning with a familiar partner can reduce age-related differences in learning and memory compared to learning alone. This study compares younger and older adults’ learning with familiar and unfamiliar partners to determine whether familiarity is beneficial for collaborative learning. Twenty-four younger adults aged 18–28 years and 24 older adults aged 60–80 years participated in familiar and unfamiliar pairs. Participants were asked to arrange abstract tangram shapes in a specific order on a grid over multiple trials; the directors’ tangram cards were arranged in a specific order on the grid and this order was communicated to the matcher. Older adults initially took longer to complete the task, using more words to correctly arrange the tangrams. Over multiple trials, a learning effect was observed in both groups, although older adults did not perform with similar efficiency to younger adults. Familiarity had no effect on performance. These findings suggest that the familiarity of a partner does not affect learning outcomes in younger or older adults when learning in a social context. Collaborative learning may be beneficial for older adults, even if they do not know their learning partner, which may have implications for adult education and lifelong learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-649
Number of pages14
JournalMemory
Volume30
Issue number5
Early online date22 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • aging
  • social interaction
  • learning
  • memory
  • collaborative learning

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