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Blended collaborative constructive participation (bccp) a model for teaching in higher education


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Authors: Maria Beatrice Ligorio, Stefania Cucchiara

The Blended Collaborative Constructive Participation (BCCP) model is a university teaching model built upon six years of experimentation.

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Blended collaborative constructive participation (bccp) a model for teaching in higher education

  1. 1. In-depth Blended Collaborative Constructive Participation (BCCP): A model for teaching in higher educationAuthors The Blended Collaborative Constructive Participation (BCCP) model is a university teaching model built upon six years of experimentation.M. Beatrice Through a flexible structure and a set of six types of activities, the aim of this modelStefania Cucchiara is to put into practice a series of already well-established pedagogical principles, as the Community of Learners, the Community of Practice, the socio-constructivist di-University of Bari, Palazzo mension, the dialogical perspective, and knowledge building.Ateneo, Bari (IT) A three-level system is presented as an assessment tool for web-forum discussions, or- ganized around the contents of the course. This system is meant to be used by teachersTags and by students to monitor and support the evolution of the discussion.blended teaching, highereducation, knowledgebuilding, web-forumdiscussion 1. Introduction Many universities have already experimented various distance learning, blended learning or network learning solutions. Even traditional universities are in the process of softening their resistance to such solutions (Cahill, 2011). Volery and Lord (2000) warn that if universities do not adopt e-learning, they will be left behind and they will lose ground to other types of educational providers. In general, there is a growing interest from universities in understand- ing advantages, costs, and conditions of introducing e-learning as part of their educational provision to students. Many factors are recognized as critical for successfully delivering e-learning. O’Neil, Singh, and O’Donoghue (2004) distinguish structural issues, students’ learning strategies, and in- structors and teaching style. These factors are surely interconnected but each of them needs a careful and specific design. Many authors have indicated the innovation of teaching models as a crucial aspect (Waks, 2007). Calls for a new teaching pedagogy, that is capable of fruitfully exploiting the potenti- alities of technology, can be found in almost all the research dealing with e-learning in higher education (McFadzean, 2001). Nevertheless, clear and detailed indications about how to change such a teaching model and how the innovative teaching model should be, are lacking. In this paper, we propose a model for university blended teaching where structure and activi- ties are clearly described. The model has been developed during six years of experimentation funded by the Italian Ministry of Research. The starting point of the model was the trans- formation of strong theoretical ideas into practices that are suitable for a blended context. Results of each year of experimentation were implemented the following year, therefore the model we now present has a strong empirical basis. In the following section we will briefly present the theoretical background inspiring the model. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011Pap 1
  2. 2. In-depth2. Theoretical background refer to the individual’s achievements, but rather to a clear attempt to improve collective learning. Such a resultThe model we propose, called Blended Collaborative Construc- is only possible through a guided and structured interac-tive Participation (BCCP), follows Nkonge and Gueldenzoph’s tion between peers and expert guidance. To enrich this(2006) recommendations to successfully use technology in perspective, discussions and interactions between vari-higher education. These recommendations are: (a) to encour- ous points of view are considered crucial. The interactiveage contact between students and professors, (b) to develop moments should not be aimed at converging toward areciprocity and cooperation among students, (c) to encourage pre-fixed definition or idea; on the contrary, the multiplic-active learning, (d) to give prompt feedback, (e) to emphasize ity of perspectives should be maintained. When differ-time on task, (f) to communicate high expectations, and (g) to ent points of view are confronted, discussed, mixed andrespect diverse ways of learning. We also implemented some integrated, then knowledge building implies a dialogicalof MacKeogh and Fox’s (2009) suggestions, in particular as re- management between many positions, each of them pro-gards: (a) flexible modular frameworks, (b) innovative pedagogi- vided by a “voice”, in the bakhtinian sense (Bakhtin, 1981).cal approaches, (c) new assessments created from learning out- This means that no attempt is made to converge toward acomes, and (d) e-portfolios. unique and common point of view; rather, new knowledgeFurthermore, the BCCP model inherits well-established, non- is possible when all the positions and voices are consid-technologically based educational models, such as: ered and reciprocally enriched (Roth, 2009); a) The Community of Learners (CoL) (Brown & Campione, d) The Progressive Inquiry Model (PIM) (Hakkarainen, Lip- 1990), that considers students as active learners, capable ponen, & Järvela, 2002), that considers learning as an of increasing, deepening, and evaluating their own knowl- inquiry process deriving from general and broad ques- edge. Each student is, at the same time, a learner and a tions – which we have called “research questions”- and teacher when s/he becomes an expert on a specific part proceeding towards critical and scientific thinking. In this of the learning contents. In this sense, in a CoL, activities model, students are spurred to finalize their learning to are based on the exchange of roles, self-evaluation, active realize a common and shared objective. This principle searching of sources, and metacognition. Swapping roles, helps students collaborate in order to reach a status be- in particular, is a crucial aspect of this model. Groups are yond individual achievement. essential in a CoL: they are an ideal place to test roles, Other sources of inspiration include the Reciprocal Teaching to discuss, and to compare ideas and information. The (RT) model (Palincsar & Brown, 1984), the Jisgaw model (Aron- groups regularly meet and update each other about their son & Patnoe, 1997) and the general principles for collaborative progress through so-called “cross-talk” meetings, meant learning and peer discussion (Dillenbourg, 1999). as moments for groups to reciprocally challenge each oth- er about the activities under development. In fact, during It may appear that the BCCP model is based on a copious theo- the “cross-talk”, students ask each other critical questions retical background. Actually, all these theories have numerous and offer stimuli for new directions; dimensions in common. First of all, they aim to support active and self-regulated learners; secondly, they seek to balance in- b) The Communities of Practice (CoP) (Wenger, 1998). Ac- dividual agency with the sense of belonging to a community; cording to this model, learning happens when people finally, the specific finalization toward the production of a con- can participate in cultural practices, crucial for the com- crete product – be it a paper, a map, a grid or a table. Another munity; therefore, learning is closely related to a growing idea common to the theoretical approaches used in the BCCP sense of personal engagement in the practice, a common model concerns the importance given to metacognition, critical objective, and a set of constantly negotiated procedures, reflection, and self-assessment. routines, and languages; Instead of looking for new pedagogical models, which would c) The socio-constructivist dimension, the dialogical dimen- imply a radical and not always feasible change for teachers, we sion, and the knowledge building approach (Scardamalia propose to put into practice the many good pedagogical ideas & Bereiter, 1994), according to which learning does not contained in the above-mentioned perspective. With the BCCP ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 2
  3. 3. In-depthmodel we attempt to highlight the link between theories and knowledge and interests. We recommend giving the studentspractice, and we consider technology to be capable of setting an overview of the modules, the rationale of their sequence,up arenas where theories can actually be put into practice. each module’s goals, and the goals of the whole course.Therefore all the theoretical ideas we have presented can be Each module should propose the same type of activities and thefound in the elements composing the BCCP model, which will same tempo. This would support the students’ perception ofbe presented in the next section. many possibilities – as many as the number of modules – to repeat the activities and, eventually, to improve their perform-3. Structure and activities of the BCCP ance. By moving from one module to the next, students should model gradually feel more confident of the structure of the modulesBefore presenting the structure and the activities composing and become more independent and active.the BCCP, a few assumptions should be cleared. First of all, we Furthermore, we propose considering a final module devotedconceive the blended dimension as carefully integrating online to the preparation of a collective product - for instance, a listand offline activities. These two contexts are not simply a re- of important points about the course or an instrument such asproposition of one another, neither is the online arena consid- a grid to guide observational activities. Such a module shouldered a repository of educational materials. Rather, we consider help students build up a general vision of the course and of theonline and offline as strictly interwoven, one empowering the links between the modules. Moreover, during this final moduleother (Bonk & Graham 2006; Ligorio, Loperfido, Sansone, & students are forced to go back to all the previous modules, soSpadaro, 2010). Secondly, we assume minimum technology that those modules to which less attention was devoted cancompetencies for both teachers and students. No fancy soft- then be compensated.ware or complicated platforms are needed. Participants shouldonly be able to navigate and perform simple operations such Students are usually divided into groups that may vary in size,as downloading and uploading materials, opening new folders, from a minimum of three to a maximum of eight, following rec-orienting and posting notes in web-forums, and managing per- ommendations from the literature about group size (Blumen-sonal profiles. In our experience we used a free platform called feld, Marx, Soloway & Krajcik, 1996; Dillenbourg, 1999). There-Synergeia (, that provides basic function- fore the number of groups to be formed depends on the totalalities such as the possibilities to create folders, web-forums, number of students attending the course (i.e., when there arewikis, and conceptual maps. Like many other platforms, Syner- 17 students, then two subgroups can be formed, one with eightgeia also provides inquiry tools to check users’ participations members and the other with of nine). Groups are the engine ofand to check by whom each item online has been posted, read, collaborative learning. In fact, small groups support active learn-and/or modified. Any platform or virtual space offering these ers and foster individual responsibility for achieving commontools could be used to implement the BCCP model. goals and joint enterprise (Wenger, 1998). Halfway through the course, the groups should be broken up and recomposed. ThisIn order to describe the model we distinguish structural ele- way, students can experience a new group and test their socialments and activities (Ligorio & Sansone, 2009). skills in a different context.3.1 The structure In general the offline meetings will follow the agenda given by the course. This may range from one hour weekly to manyThe structure of the BCCP model concerns the contents, the way hours spread over two or three weekly meetings. Regardless ofstudents are grouped, and the timing and alternation of online the specific agenda, our general suggestion is to devote equaland offline. As recommended by MacKeogh and Fox (2009), we time to the teacher’s lecturing and to group discussion aboutpropose to structure the course into modules, as many as need- the online activities. Two types of lectures can be offered: a)ed to cover the contents of the course and also taking into con- lecturing to start up a module - these are lectures during whichsideration the time available. The teacher is usually in charge the teacher outlines the main points of the module, presentsof organizing the contents and the sequence of the modules, the educational materials, and sets up the research question ofalthough there should be space for flexibility and negotiation the module; b) lecturing on-demand, requested by the studentswith the students in order to take into account their pre-existing about points and concepts needing clarification during the dis- ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 3
  4. 4. In-depthcussions. This is a way to make the students active and capable groups. For instance, if in a course there are three groups,of regulating the learning process. The research questions and there will be three students reading the same material, andthe lecturing on-demand can be defined as negotiation spaces they will confront and discuss this particular reading andbetween the teacher and the students, meant as ways to break their reviews on it. So this activity leads to a twofold leveltraditional unidirectional teaching (from teacher to student). of discussion: a cross-group discussion about the same ma- terial, and group discussion regarding all the materials ofThe online activities should be performed in between the face- the module. Students enter the group discussion with twoto-face meetings. Students can log online from university com- “voices”: their own personal view, and that of the author ofputers or from their private locations. The BCCP model is very the material read. This way, naïve and rhetorical discussionsflexible in terms of online activities: they can require just a few are also avoided.hours from one face-to-face meeting to the next, or many hoursper day. In fact the model can be tailored based on the needs, Furthermore, for each module, the teacher reads and com-aims, and constraints of the students. In any case, students ments two to three reviews for each group so that, by theshould be free to spend the required hours online at their own end of the course, each student will have at least two com-convenience. mented reviews. In order to improve their writing skills, the students are required to read and discuss in group the teach-3.2 The activities er’s comments, even when they do not concern their own review. The reviews are aimed at enhancing the students’Six activities compose the BCCP model. This set of activities rep- ability to acquire their own critical self-assessment.resents the complete model but it is not always necessary toimplement all the activities; it is perfectly possible to select only This activity is inspired by the Jigsaw. In fact, students covera few and neglect the others. a piece of the module with their individual readings and by posting and reciprocally reading the reviews they cover thea) Reading and writing. Each participant is required to read in- content of the whole module. Comparing many papers and dividually the educational material the teacher assigns him/ being encouraged to express personal points of view assures her. This material may have several formats (such as a chap- the dialogical nature of the discussion. In fact, many voices ter, a journal article, a website or a set of slides), carefully are involved in this activity — specifically, the students’ voice, selected by the teacher, and posted online in a specific folder. both as individuals and as part of a group, the voice of the ex- To perform this task, a few days are usually allotted. This as- perts of the material read, and finally the voice of the teacher. signment is always part of each module; therefore, each stu- dent is required to read a number of documents similar to the b) Discussing. Many types of discussions are possible online: number of modules composing the course. Later, students informal, organizational and module-specific, all conducted have to write a short critical review about that material. To asynchronically via web-forum. Informal and organizational write such a review, the teacher offers the following precise discussions are possible throughout the course, as students indications: a) reporting the main issues of the document are allowed to open up new discussion forums whenever they have read, b) outlining its contribution to the research they like. These spaces represent interesting opportunities question of the module, c) giving a personal opinion, and d) for students to express their thoughts and feelings about from the second module on, comparing the paper with the their participation in the course. They are important spac- previously read materials, either by the same student or by es because various matters are addressed and solved and, other students. above all, a sense of community is built. While informal and organizational discussion forums are freely organized by the The critical reviews are posted in a virtual folder and all the students, the module-specific discussions are guided by the group members have to read and comment on them. The re- research question negotiated during the face-to-face meet- views represent the starting point for the online discussions ings. Each group attempts to answer the research question in each group, but they also support cross-group discussions by comparing and discussing the various materials read by around the same materials. In fact, the same material is read the students composing the group. The discussions around by one student in each group. Therefore, the number of stu- the content are set in such a way as to foster a knowledge dents reading the same material depends on the number of ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 4
  5. 5. In-depth building process (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2003). To achieve The final common product can be different things: a check such an objective, both individual and social dimensions are list, an observational grid, a questionnaire or even multime- strongly interwoven (Chan & van Aalst, 2004). dia. As we have already said, a final module could be devoted entirely to the preparation of this product. This is an activityc) Searching new materials. Students are encouraged to search carried out by all the participants of the course. new material to better address the module and to post it online accompanied by a short justification. The justification Having products typifying the group work means externaliz- contains information about author and/or website credibility, ing the culture of the group and creating further occasion for why the material should be considered relevant for the mod- self-assessment and reflection upon learning processes. ule, and how it can contribute to the inquiry on the module’s e) Role-taking. In our model, a number of roles are proposed research question. Students appreciate this practice and in- and all of them are aimed at shaping active students. In fact, creasingly select interesting educational material. The aim of ideally, each student should always play a role; this way, the this activity is twofold: it supports the students’ sensation of student can always take the responsibility of some task es- being active by contributing to the selection of educational sential for the group and for the whole course. All roles are materials; and, at the same time, students can reflect on the meant to interweave the process of learning with the acquisi- criteria for recognizing valuable information obtained on the tion of abilities and professional skills. So far, the roles tested Internet. in our blended courses are (Spadaro, Sansone, & Ligorio,d) Building collaborative products. The BCCP model proposes 2009): group-products and a collective final product. Group-prod- • E-tutor, focusing on group management and supporting ucts are built before moving on to a new module and they group discussion; can be a written synthesis or a conceptual map. • Critical friend, designed to promote cross-group collabo- The synthesis describes how the group worked during the ration by reading and commenting on the activities and module-specific discussion. The teacher provides a guideline products of a different group; about this product, which includes the following points: a) • Person responsible for a collaborative product (synthesis, the length of the text (usually about 500 words); b) if and map, final product), with the responsibility of guiding the how the discussion moved from the research question ini- activities necessary to finalize the product and of describ- tially launched to eventual new questions; c) how the final ing it during the face-to-face meetings; answer was negotiated. The synthesis clearly aims to sustain • Person responsible for taking notes and/or video clips reflective thinking, and to provide inputs that will improve from face-to-face meetings and for uploading them on- the reasoning and inquiry process for the next module. A line. Students covering this role should be sensitive to wiki-like tool is highly recommended to build this product. the needs of the students who are not able to attend the class; The conceptual map can be designed by using specific soft- • Person responsible for negotiating the lecture on-demand ware or the Microsoft tool to build diagrams, or even just with the teacher, on behalf of the group. pencil and paper. The map should be about “what” has been The whole set of roles is meant to support positive social discussed, therefore it should contain the main ideas borne interaction, knowledge building, and a sense of challenge in from the discussion and the final research answer given by the students themselves. In fact, students find themselves the group. This activity is useful to improve learning through acting in ways they would not normally act, so they experi- the recognition of primary concepts of knowledge and the re- ence new ways of being. Role-playing has an impact on self- lationships between them (Novak & Gowin, 1984). The final representation, broadens the range of learning strategies and maps can be stored in a folder and students can discuss and positions, and enriches the identity trajectory. Different situ- comment on them. In this manner, reflection on the process ations, triggered by the roles, stress different aspects of the of building a concept map and on the differences between self and produce new identity positioning (Hermans, 2004). composing a text and a map is promoted. This is also a way to Specific discussions about the roles, about how students feel allow students to try out different formats and communica- when playing them and about how to improve their efficacy, tion modes. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 5
  6. 6. In-depth are available throughout the course. These discussion forums can also compare their final self-assessment with their initial are presented as crucial moments for the knowledge building expectations. process. The self-evaluation form comprises several questions,f) E-portfolio and self-assessment. In order to support self- through which students describe how the activities they per- evaluation and metacognitive reflection about the activities formed (reviewing, role-taking, online activities, offline meet- performed, students are required to construct a personal ings, conceptual maps, synthesis) have contributed to their e-portfolio and complete a self-assessment form, provided learning, both in terms of content and skills. Self-assessment by the teacher. The e-portfolio can be used in different ways stimulates students’ metacognitive processes and reflec- at different moments: at the start of the course, students tion on their own abilities and skills; moreover, it supports can post their expectations and the goals they would like to the development of critical self-evaluation. At the end of the achieve; and at the end of each module, students should fill course, the teacher takes into account the progress shown in in self-assessment forms and select their best products of the the self-evaluation filled forms. module; at the end of the course, students may report their Table 1 presents a synopsis of the proposed activities, with the assessment about the course and their own learning; they annotation of the pedagogical references and their aims. Reading and writing Individual reading of the assigned material Individual writing of a short review following the teacher’s instruction Cross-group discussion involving students reading the same material Collective discussion about the teacher’s comments on the review Pedagogical references: Jigsaw, RT, dialogical perspective, PIM Aim: to develop academic skills in reading and writing Discussing Group discussion about the research question Pedagogical references: PIM and dialogical perspective Aim: to express and compare ideas (both personal and based on the readings) Searching new materials Students search new material that is relevant for the module Pedagogical references: CoL and CoP Aim: to recognize scientific material Building collaborative products Written synthesis of how the group discussed Conceptual map of the main ideas discussed, and the answer to the research question elaborated by the group Pedagogical references: PIM; collaborative knowledge building and externalization Aim: academic skills and practical skills about e-learning (the content of the course) Role-taking E-tutor, critical friend, person responsible for the collaborative products, person responsible for taking notes and/or video clips from face-to-face meetings and for uploading them online. Pedagogical references: scaffolding, CoL, CoP self-development and positioning , Aim: to support active learning and responsibility taking E-portfolio and self-assessment Opening and maintaining a personal folder Filling in a self-assessment form Pedagogical references: self-assessment and metacognition Aim: to improve skills for self-assessing expectations, activities, collaborationTable 1: The activities composing the BCCP model ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 6
  7. 7. In-depthThe set of activities proposed with our model is designed mainly through a content analysis, using a simple categorization thatto support active learners and collaborative knowledge build- can also be used by teachers to assess in itinere the online dis-ing. In fact, individual learning (by reading and writing) is the cussion.starting point for subsequent collaborative activities such as In particular we considered three levels (Cucchiara & Ligorio,discussing and preparing group products. Indeed, the complex 2009), inspired by Bereiter and Scardamalia’s (2003) sugges-architecture of this blended course allows, simultaneously, indi- tions about the knowledge building process:vidual work, work within small groups, and large group activity. a) “facts”, which are information collected by reading the4. Assessing the BCCP model educational material or the outcome of past knowledge. This level can be recognized whenever the student writesHow can a teacher monitor the efficacy of the BCCP model? something like “As I read …” or “As the teacher said duringThe quality of the products and the amount of presence online, the lecture …”;checked through specific tools embedded in the platform, are b) “simple theories”, when students elaborate hypothesesgood indicators of the students’ learning. But, to understand and explanations about facts. This level should be assignedthe effects of the model, we consider crucial the assessment whenever there is a statement like “I think …” or “My im-of the quality of the discussions around the module-research pression is …”;question. In order to assess the discussions around the research c) “complex theories”, representing a deeper level of elabo-question we will present an analysis of one of our courses. The ration and understanding in which students can explainassessment of these discussions is focused on understanding if more facts, compare several ideas, and answer the re-and how the knowledge building process is progressing. To un- search question guiding the module. This level is recogniz-ravel this point we looked at how students picked up the con- able when students declare something like “By comparingtent offered by the reading materials and how they elaborated different ideas …” or “I would like to add something new”.it. More than one level could be assigned to a single note; in fact, one note could refer to many levels. Therefore we segmented4.1 Context and participants the note in as many parts as the levels we could recognize in it.The discussions analyzed here took place during a course on After all the notes were analyzed, segmented, and categorized,Educational Psychology and e-Learning, offered at the Univer- we counted the frequency and the percentage of frequency ofsity of Bari (Italy) in the academic year 2009-2010. This particu- each level.lar course lasted 13 weeks and was divided into five modules. Two researchers first analyzed 10% of the corpus together, toAll the modules were aimed at supporting a fairly good under- get in tune about the meaning of the levels and how to segmentstanding of what e-learning means, its main issues and its prob- the notes. Then, they individually assigned the categories to thelematic aspects. The first four modules covered the educational remaining notes. Later they compared the categories assignedcontent of the course, while the last one was devoted to the and found an agreement of 85%. The controversial cases werecollaborative building of a grid meant to guide the observation discussed until a common decision was made and 100% of theof e-learning courses. The modules were about a) technology agreement was reached.and learning; b) e-learning contents; c) online identity; and d)new trends. 4.3 Results 16 students –4 males and 12 females, 22 years old on average–were divided into two groups of eight participants each. In this Results show that 22.5% of the interventions were about “facts”,particular course students attended eight module-based discus- whereas ”simple theories” appeared in 40% of the cases, andsions and produced 511 notes in total. 32,5% of the cases could be considered “complex theories”. To understand how these frequencies were distributed through-4.2 Methods of analysis out the discussion, we segmented each discussion into threeA qualitative analysis was used. The aim was to gain an in-depth periods by simply looking at the dates of the notes: initial, inter-understanding of the content of the notes posted in the forum mediate and final period. It was found that the “facts” always ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 7
  8. 8. In-depthreached the highest frequency at the start of the discussions aimed at stimulating the improvement of ideas (Cucchiara & Li-(on average 18% more compared to the final part). This level gorio, 2009).seems to be aimed at laying out a common ground for the dis- This type of result can provide useful feedback to teachers andcussion by sharing and reporting the concepts of the module in students for improving their discursive practices and the onlinethe web-discussion. discussion.The “simple theories” are the most frequent level in all the dis-cussions. This result may indicate that students are indeed able 5. Conclusionsto produce theories, although they often remain at a simplelevel. For students, this is a way to share and test their hypoth- In this paper we have presented the Blended Collaborative Con-eses or ideas. structive Participation model as a teaching model for university. The model is built upon well-established pedagogical principlesThe last level, concerning “complex theories”, appears mostly at and attempts to put them into practice. We consider the intro-the end of the discussions, when students finalize their answer duction of technology in university contexts, where face-to-faceto the research question. At this level students are attempting meetings are paramount, as a great occasion to strengthen theto raise the quality of the ideas by comparing and synthesizing link between theory and practice.the various positions that emerged and trying to reach a higherlevel of understanding of the concepts discussed. The structure and the activities composing the model are the re- sult of six years of experimentation during which many improve-Moreover, in order to understand how the discussion shifts ments were produced. Furthermore, the model proved in manyfrom one level to the next, we observed these occurrences in ways to be efficient and effective. In this paper we have pre-detail. We found a type of intervention capable of sustaining sented the method of analyzing the discussions about the learn-such a movement and called it “transaction comment”. This ing material, guided by a research question. The reason for thistype of intervention seems to be capable of sustaining the de- choice is the fact that we consider the asynchronous web-forumvelopment of the discussion toward a higher level. The “trans- peer discussion to be a very crucial aspect of e-learning. But itaction comment” has a specific feature: it does not strictly refer is not easy for teachers and instructors to monitor its depth andto the content of the discussion, but it is a discourse strategy, quality. We consider the analysis we have presented to be a toolwith the clear purpose of triggering interactions among stu- that teachers and instructors can easily master. By looking at thedents. For example, after expressing their ideas, students may three levels we propose (fact, simply theory, complex theory),ask questions or opinions from their peers (i.e. “what do you the quality of the discussions can be monitored, and by usingthink about this?”) with the intention of eliciting feedback, or the transaction comments, it can be advanced.obtaining their alliance or collaboration. The “transaction com-ments” are usually able to push other participants to commentand contribute to the general discussion. Often such commentsunveil the intention to support the development and improve- Referencesment of ideas and the shift from one level to the next. Aronson, E. & Patnoe, S. (1997). The jigsaw classroom: Building cooperation in the classroom (2nd ed.). New York: Addison Wesley Longman.We found that “transaction comments” caused: a) on average,21% of the passages from “facts” to “simple theories”; b) on Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. Austin, TX:average, 32% of the passages from “simple theories” level to University of Texas Press.“complex theories”. Bereiter, C., Scardamalia, M. (2003). Learning to work creatively with knowledge, in De Corte, E.;Verscheffel, L.;This result highlights the social and dialogical nature of the Entwistle, N.; Merrienboer, J.V. (eds.), Powerful learning environments:discussion, in that it progresses within the dialectic exchange Unravelling basic components and dimension. Oxford: Elsevier Science.between students and the mutual support they give each oth- Blumenfeld, P.C., Marx, R.W., Soloway, E., & Krajcik, The “transaction comments” represent a form of help and (1996). Learning with Peers: from small group cooperation toa scaffold explicitly offered to and requested by the students, Collaborative Communities. Educational Research, 25, (8), 37-40. ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • eL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011 Pap 8
  9. 9. In-depthBonk, C. J., & Graham, C. R. (Eds) (2006). The Handbook of Ligorio, M. B., & Sansone, N. (2009). Structure of a BlendedBlended Learning: Global Perspectives, Local Designs. San Francisco, University course: Applying Constructivist principles to a blendedCA: Pfeiffer. course, in C. R. Payne (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. London, IGIBrown, A.L. & Campione, J.C. (1990). Communities of Global, pp. 216-230.learning or a content by any other name. In D. Kuhn (ed.),Contribution to human development. (pp. 108-126). New York: Oxford Nkonge, B., & Gueldenzoph, L. E. (2006). Best practices inUniversity Press. online education: Implications for policy and practice. Business Education Digest, (15), 42-53.Cahill, J. L. (2011). Implementing online or hybrid courses in atraditional university. eLearning Papers n.º 24, April 2011, http:// Novak, J. D., & Gowin, D. B. (1984). Learning how to learn. York and Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Chan, C.K.K., & Van Aalst, J. (2004). Learning, assessment, and O’Neill, K., Singh, G., & O’Donoghue, J. (2004).collaboration in computer-supported collaborative learning. In J. Implementing eLearning Programmes for Higher Education: AW. Strijbos, P. Kirschner, & R. Martens (Eds.), What we know about Review of the Literature. Journal of Information Technology EducationCSCL: and implementing it in higher education (pp. 87-112). Kluwer V.3, 313-323 .Academic Publishers. Palincsar, A. S., & Brown, A. L. (1984). Reciprocal teachingCucchiara, S., & Ligorio, M.B. (2009). From facts to theories: of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoringa case study. Paper presented at Knowledge Building Summer Institute. activities. Cognition and Instruction, 2, 117-175.Palma de Mallorca, 29 August - 3 September 2009. Roth, W. M. (2009). Dialogism: A Bakhtinian Perspective on ScienceDillenbourg, P. (1999). What do you mean by collaborative and Learning. Rotterdam: Sense Publisher.learning? In P. Dillenbourg (Ed.) Collaborative-learning: Cognitive andComputational Approaches (pp.1-19). Oxford, UK: Elsevier. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer Support for Knowledge-Building Communities. The Journal of the LearningHakkarainen, K., Lipponen, L., & Järvela, S. (2002). Sciences, 3(3), 256-283.Epistemology of inquiry and computer-supported collaborativelearning. In T.D. Koshmann et al (Eds), CSCL 2: Carrying Forward Singh, G., O’Donoghue, J, & Worton, H. (2005). A Studythe Conversation (pp. 129-156). Mahwah, N.J.: Laurence Erlbaum Into The Effects Of eLearning On Higher Education. Journal ofAssociates. University Teaching and Learning Practice.Hermans, H. (2004). Mediated identity in the emerging digital Spadaro, P. F., Sansone, N., & Ligorio, M. B. (2009). Role-age: A dialogical perspective. Identity: An international Journal of taking for Knowledge Building in a Blended Learning course.theory and research, 4(4), 297-405. Journal of e-Learning and Knowledge Society, 5 (3), 11-21.Kershaw, A. (1996). People, planning, and process: The acceptance Volery, T., & Lord, D. (2000). Critical success factors in onlineof technological innovation in post-secondary organizations. education. The International Journal of Education Management, 14 (5),Educational Technology, 44-48. 216 – 223.Ligorio, M.B., Loperfido, F.F., Sansone, N., & Spadaro, P.F. Waks, L. J. (2007). The concept of fundamental educational(2010). Blending educational models to design blended activities. change. Educational Theory, 57(3), 277-295. Retrieved from http://In D. Persico & F. Pozzi (eds.) Techniques for Fostering Collaboration &sid=1&Fmin Online Learning Communities:Theoretical and Practical Perspectives t=3&clientId=52110&RQT=309&VName=PQD(pp.64-81) IGI Global. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers Copyrights ISSN: 1887-1542 The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject Publisher: to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. 3.0 Unported licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast pro- Postal address: c/Muntaner 262, 3r, 08021 Barcelona (Spain) vided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Phone: +34 933 670 400 Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. Email: The full licence can be consulted on Internet: es/by-nc-nd/3.0/ ing earn eLearning Papers • ISSN: 1887-1542 • www.elearningpapers.eueL ers 27 u ers.e gpap www .elea rnin n.º 27 • December 2011Pap 9