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Managing Communities of Learning
The Impact and Role of Facilitators

                          Martin Rehm, Anna Galazka, Wim Gijselaers, Mien Segers
                                                         EDiNEB 2012, Haarlem
                                                                       May 2012
Communities of Learning (CoL)

• defined as groups of people who meet
  online to engage in “collaborative learning
  and reflective practice involved in
  transformative learning”
 (Paloff & Pratt, 2003, p. 17)


• co-construction of knowledge through the
  combined effect of reflection and interaction
 (Sengupta, 2001)
The Role of Facilitators in CoL



facilitator activity is one of the key processes
involved in participant interaction

(Cho, Stefanone, & Gay, 2002)
The Role of Facilitators in CoL




                               vs



“Guide on the side”                 “Cheerleader”
(Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003)        Paloff and Pratt (1999)
Hypothesis 1 - General
• too much instruction may reduce interaction
  (e.g. Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003)

• limited facilitator activity can reduce quality of
  learning & social dynamics
  (Jones & Issroff, 2005)


     H1 - The level of facilitator activity is
   positively related to the level of participant
                activity within CoL
Hypothesis 2 - Social
• facilitators should compensate for limited audio-
  visual cues
  (Stacey, 2002)

• facilitators can positively influence participants’
  activity levels by developing rapport and cultivating
  a sense of belonging
  (Iorio, Taylor, & Sturts-Dossick, 2011)



  H2 -The number of facilitators’ social messages is
   positively related to participants' overall level of
                         activity
Hypothesis 3 - Content
• facilitator assistance encourages participants to
  engage into in-depth discussions
  (Iorio, Taylor, & Sturts-Dossick, 2011)

• facilitators should abstain from giving content-
  related feedback which provides quick answers to
  questions asked
  (Vonderwell, 2003)


  H3 – The number of facilitators’ content-related
  messages is negatively related to participants’ level
                      of content
Setting
• online training program of a large
  international organization
• 14 weeks of online learning
• 16 CoL
  – 149 participants     +/- 12 participants per CoL
  – 2 facilitators per CoL
• asynchronous discussions forums:
  – Café-Talk
  – Content-Related (real-life tasks)
Instruments

• Activity Levels
  – user statistics from discussion forums
   (Zembylas & Vrasidas, 2007)

• Content Analysis
  – coding instrument
   (Veerman & Veldhuis-Diermanse, 2001     Schellens & Valcke, 2005)

  – unit of analysis: unit of meaning
   (Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997)

  – inter-rater reliability: Cronbach alpha (                )&
    Cohen’s kappa ( )
Average # of Messages                                Participants   Facilitators


                   Total Messages                    14.81          30.85
General            Non-Task-Related                  4.62           26.08
                   Task-Related                      10.19          4.78
                                         “Planning” 1.68            9.58
                                        “Technical” .19             .60
Non-Task-Related
                                            “Social” 2.59           14.45
                                        “Nonsense” .16              1.45
                                       “New Facts” 1.18             .35
                    “Own Experience and Opinions” .70               .38

Task-Related
                           “New Theoretical Ideas” .05              .33
                                      “Explicitation” 7.19          3.03
                                       “Evaluation” 1.06            .70
                                                  = 0.92;    = 0.73 (p < 0.01)
A detailed investigation of task-related sub-categories
revealed a significant correlation between
participants’ Own Experience and Opinions and
facilitators’ Evaluation messages.
Discussion

• hypotheses (largely) build upon studies
  from higher education
  findings cannot easily be transferred across
  target groups

• working professionals
  – do not need to be “taken by the hand”
  – seem to enjoy the challenge of partaking in
    high-level discussions
anna.milena.galazka@gmail.com
rehm@merit.unu.edu

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Managing Communities of Learning: The Impact and Role of Facilitators

  • 1. Managing Communities of Learning The Impact and Role of Facilitators Martin Rehm, Anna Galazka, Wim Gijselaers, Mien Segers EDiNEB 2012, Haarlem May 2012
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4. Communities of Learning (CoL) • defined as groups of people who meet online to engage in “collaborative learning and reflective practice involved in transformative learning” (Paloff & Pratt, 2003, p. 17) • co-construction of knowledge through the combined effect of reflection and interaction (Sengupta, 2001)
  • 5.
  • 6. The Role of Facilitators in CoL facilitator activity is one of the key processes involved in participant interaction (Cho, Stefanone, & Gay, 2002)
  • 7. The Role of Facilitators in CoL vs “Guide on the side” “Cheerleader” (Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003) Paloff and Pratt (1999)
  • 8. Hypothesis 1 - General • too much instruction may reduce interaction (e.g. Mazzolini & Maddison, 2003) • limited facilitator activity can reduce quality of learning & social dynamics (Jones & Issroff, 2005) H1 - The level of facilitator activity is positively related to the level of participant activity within CoL
  • 9. Hypothesis 2 - Social • facilitators should compensate for limited audio- visual cues (Stacey, 2002) • facilitators can positively influence participants’ activity levels by developing rapport and cultivating a sense of belonging (Iorio, Taylor, & Sturts-Dossick, 2011) H2 -The number of facilitators’ social messages is positively related to participants' overall level of activity
  • 10. Hypothesis 3 - Content • facilitator assistance encourages participants to engage into in-depth discussions (Iorio, Taylor, & Sturts-Dossick, 2011) • facilitators should abstain from giving content- related feedback which provides quick answers to questions asked (Vonderwell, 2003) H3 – The number of facilitators’ content-related messages is negatively related to participants’ level of content
  • 11. Setting • online training program of a large international organization • 14 weeks of online learning • 16 CoL – 149 participants +/- 12 participants per CoL – 2 facilitators per CoL • asynchronous discussions forums: – Café-Talk – Content-Related (real-life tasks)
  • 12. Instruments • Activity Levels – user statistics from discussion forums (Zembylas & Vrasidas, 2007) • Content Analysis – coding instrument (Veerman & Veldhuis-Diermanse, 2001 Schellens & Valcke, 2005) – unit of analysis: unit of meaning (Gunawardena, Lowe, & Anderson, 1997) – inter-rater reliability: Cronbach alpha ( )& Cohen’s kappa ( )
  • 13. Average # of Messages Participants Facilitators Total Messages 14.81 30.85 General Non-Task-Related 4.62 26.08 Task-Related 10.19 4.78 “Planning” 1.68 9.58 “Technical” .19 .60 Non-Task-Related “Social” 2.59 14.45 “Nonsense” .16 1.45 “New Facts” 1.18 .35 “Own Experience and Opinions” .70 .38 Task-Related “New Theoretical Ideas” .05 .33 “Explicitation” 7.19 3.03 “Evaluation” 1.06 .70 = 0.92; = 0.73 (p < 0.01)
  • 14. A detailed investigation of task-related sub-categories revealed a significant correlation between participants’ Own Experience and Opinions and facilitators’ Evaluation messages.
  • 15. Discussion • hypotheses (largely) build upon studies from higher education findings cannot easily be transferred across target groups • working professionals – do not need to be “taken by the hand” – seem to enjoy the challenge of partaking in high-level discussions