UNDERSTANDING COLLABORATIVE KNOWLEDGE CONSTRUCTION PROCESSES IN THE ELECTRONIC DISCOURSE OF LEARNING GROUPS
The Petroleum Institute (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Sociocultural constructivism assumes that interactions between learners are vital for enabling information exchange and meaning negotiation that lead to knowledge building. Online courses are adopting synchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies to facilitate interaction between distant learners. However, there are concerns that the real-time and fast-paced conversational characteristics of synchronous computer-mediated (chat) discourse do not support substantive discussions and the resultant ‘superficial talk’ does not contribute to learning. Given these concerns, this study examines the extent to which chat CMC technology facilitates group knowledge construction processes as evidenced in the electronic discourse of two undergraduate tutorial groups. An Exchange Structure Analysis framework was applied to code task-oriented electronic exchanges, from chat tutorial discussion transcripts, at Exchange Structure (ES) and Move levels to identify the interactional purposes of exchanges based on structural categories (ES level) and the underlying pragmatic intentions (Move level). A web survey was also administered to examine student perceptions regarding the presence of peer scaffolding and knowledge appropriation during tutorial discussions. Discourse analysis results at Move level revealed the presence of topic development phases in exchanges that signal instances whereby learners extended discussions by critically evaluating the meaning of what others had said through questioning, checking, clarifying, and challenging their peers’ contributions to the chat tutorial discussions. Hence, these findings reflect collaborative group efforts at negotiating the meanings of shared information that are characteristic of knowledge building in sociocultural constructivist learning processes. Additionally, there were group level differences in the tendency to develop main conversational threads further in terms of direction and depth. The discourse analysis results were consistent with web survey results that showed group differences in perceptions regarding the availability of clarifications from peers and own appropriation of knowledge from peers’ contributions in tutorial discussions. The conclusion discusses the implications of the findings for improving the design and facilitation of online learning activities.
Keywords: Sociocultural constructivism, synchronous computer-mediated communication, discourse analysis, learner experiences.