We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Steve Higgins

Mercier, E., Higgins, S. & Da Costa, L. (2014). Different leaders: Emergent organizational and intellectual leadership in children’s collaborative learning groups. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning 9(4): 397-432.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper presents two studies that examine emergent leadership in children’s collaborative learning groups. Building on research that finds that leadership moves are distributed among group members during learning activities, we examined whether there were patterns in the distribution of moves, resulting in different types of emergent leaders in groups. Study one examines individual groups working with a teacher, on the same task either with paper or multi-touch tables. Study two examines groups of students in a multi-touch classroom. Results from study one indicated that the leadership was distributed among the students; the distributions aligned with classifications of intellectual leadership moves and organizational leadership moves for about half of the groups. There were no differences in emergent leadership between the multi-touch and paper conditions. These results were explored in more detail in a multi-touch classroom study, exploring emergent leadership in 22 groups of students across six classes. Again, leadership was distributed among group members, and specific roles of intellectual and organizational leader, taken on by two different students, could be identified in half of the groups. These results suggest that attention should be paid to how students are engaging in collaborative learning tasks to ensure all students participate in the intellectual as well as organizational demands of the task. Additionally, the pattern of the distribution of roles suggests that care should be taken to specify behaviors if the role of leader is assigned to collaborative groups.