Online group work patterns: how to promote a successful collaboration Tinoca, L.F.(1,2), Oliveira, I.(1,2) & Pereira, A.(1,3) (1) Departament of Education and Distance Teaching, Universidade Aberta(2) Centro de Investigação em Educação(3) Laboratório de Educação a Distância Portugal
Theoretical Framework:Networked Learning Peer interaction stimulates knowledge production and produces cognitive gains (Perret-Clermont et al., 1991; Dillenbourg, 1999) The instructor should act mainly as a facilitator to the learning process, (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Dillenbourg, 1999) The construction and appropriation of knowledge is highly influenced by the individuals’ social experiences (Vygotsky, 1978; Wertsch, 1991) In ODL students are characterized by their high motivation to learn, fueled by their realization that learning will help them to better perform in their professional settings. (Rovai, 2004)
Group work and knowledge convergence The process of group work is defined by such attributes as the students ability to have an in-depth discussion, raise points, contribute to discussions (…) and generally participate as fully and openly as possible. (McConnell, 2006) Some patterns of interactions are more productive than others for establishing a working joint problem-space that allows the group to capitalize on the resources available to solve problems and to learn from one another. (Barron, 2003) Knowledge convergence is the process by which two or more people share mutual understanding through social interaction, and is believed to reflect the fundamentally social nature of the knowledge construction process. (Jeong & Chi, 2007) Collaborative learning research suggests the need to give greater emphasis to interactional practices in order to render them more productive. (Matusov, Bell & Rogoff, 2003)
Research Questions What are the patterns that identify successful groups? What types of constraints prevent some participants from fully engaging on the group work?
The Context The class: Using ICT for Learning and Assessment (based on a Pedagogical Model for online learning by Pereira et al., 2007) The goals of this Curricular Unit included the development of the participants’ metacognitive, argumentative and evaluative competencies. More specifically they were: To be able to communicate conclusions, knowledge and reasoning clearly while being able to argument and substantiate their own point of view. To critically reflect about the usage of technologies in education. To creatively use technological artifacts with pedagogical goals. To substantiate their decisions about the use of multimedia and/or educational communication tools in a variety of settings.
The Participants The participants (36) were divided into 8 groups (with 4 to 5 participants each) Ages ranged from 30 to 45 2 representative groups were chosen Group Dali
They were not as successful with their final product and revealed some difficulties to collaborate effectively, resulting in anxiety and division amongst the group members.
Data collection and analysis The analysis was conducted using Strauss and Corbin “grounded theory” approach, Each group’s processes of collaboration was analyzed, with particular emphasis to the interaction between the participants, and the artifacts that were constructed, and reconstructed, by each group on the way to their final product. From the analysis of the group interactions emerged 4 main patterns of work (McConnell , 2006).
Answering the Research Questions Q1: What are the patterns that identify successful groups? Clarification of focus Collaboration Creation of artifacts Reflection over the produced sections Revision
Q2: What types of constraints prevent some participants from fully engagement on the group work? Lack of trust (underdevelopment of the negotiation pattern) Weak group identity Answering the Research Questions
Conclusions Group work revealed to be a powerful tool. Giving the students the opportunity to engage in online group work is clearly not sufficient to assure that they will work collaboratively (Mantovani, 1994). Aspects related to ontological security and trust (Giddens,1997), as well as social identity are cornerstone.
Implications Special care should be given to the construction of the groups. Cognitive aspects and interpersonal skills should both be taken into account. Action coordination towards a shared task has a clear effect in the participants’ negotiated identities (Giddens, 1997). The course designer should take into account the negotiated experience of self and membership of the participants.