Emergent leadership in children's discussion groups

Yuan Li, Richard C. Anderson, Kim Nguyen-Jahiel, Ting Dong, Anthi Archodidou, Il Hee Kim, Li Jen Kuo, Ann Marie Clark, Xiaoying Wu, May Jadallah, Brian Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Emergent leadership was examined in 12 discussion groups in 4 fourth-grade classrooms. Children's leadership moves were coded from transcripts of 10 free-flowing, open-format discussions of each of the 12 groups. The transcripts encompassed 26,000 turns for speaking, including 22,000 child turns of which 1,700 were judged to serve one of five leadership functions: Turn Management, Argument Development, Planning and Organizing, Topic Control, and Acknowledgment. Comparison of the number and kind of leadership moves made by the children showed that 1 primary child leader emerged in 6 out of the 12 groups and that, in all but 1 of the remaining groups, leadership was shared among several children. Even in groups with a dominant leader, leadership functions were widely distributed among group members. A three-level generalized hierarchical linear model, with multiple discussions nested within students and students nested within groups, showed that the frequency of leadership moves increased with the progression of the discussions, suggesting that the emerging leaders were learning how to lead. Girls who received stratagem instruction, and who were frequently nominated by their peers as having good ideas and seldom nominated as being too quiet, exhibited more leadership than other children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-2
Number of pages2
JournalCognition and Instruction
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • General Psychology


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