Video highlights cultural differences in collaboration

A video by Barbara Rogoff, distinguished professor of psychology, about how children learn to collaborate is featured in the 2020 STEM for All Video Showcase competition hosted by the National Science Foundation.

Rogoff and co-presenters Andrew Coppens, Rebeca Mejía-Arauz, Angélica López-Fraire, and Lucía Alcalá, all of whom earned PhDs from UC Santa Cruz, created a 3-minute research video entitled “Learning to Collaborate.” The video shows that cultural differences in how parents include toddlers in everyday work may support children’s interest and skill in collaboration—a skill that is valuable for learning. The researchers submitted the video as part of NSF’s annual competition showcasing innovative ways to improve learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the so-called STEM fields.

The video, based on interviews with California mothers, highlights the ways that many Mexican-heritage families in the United States include even the youngest children in family work. As Mexican-heritage children reach middle childhood, they are often more likely to voluntarily pitch in to help than middle-class European American children, whose families generally try to discourage toddlers’ involvement in family work.

“The Mexican-heritage mothers generally appreciate even 2-year-olds’ involvement as help, even though the help may require some fixing up,” said Rogoff. The Mexican-heritage families’ encouragement of collaboration in early childhood could lay the groundwork for successful collaboration in classrooms and informal settings, and aid national efforts to broaden children’s participation in science, according to the researchers.

Rogoff’s video is available for voting through May 12 at NSF’s competition website. Viewers are invited to vote for their favorite video and join the online discussion of the videos, at

Videos from Rogoff’s research team have taken top awards in the previous four years. The videos, about skilled collaboration, helpfulness, and keen observation, remain available for viewing at NSF’s Stem for All Multiplex,

Now in its sixth year, the NSF showcase features over 170 innovative projects aimed at improving STEM learning and teaching.