H.T. Ozturk

Lancaster University, PhD Student / Ankara University, Research Assistant (UNITED KINGDOM)
In this study, I deal with virtual learning groups designed with democratic pedagogy and internal dynamics of these groups from the perspective of ontological security. Virtual learning groups are increasingly emerging in the education as a part of face to face courses or distance education. Although virtual learning environments offer a platform for constructing knowledge, there are still some considerations need to be taken into account for practitioners. In particular, given the nature of democratic pedagogy which learners’ autonomy, self-regulation and learning through social interaction and negotiation are proposed, the flexibility and uncertainty as well as diversity of the individuals might raise some ontological security related feelings among learners in the group. According to results of an ethnographic research, together with the place of identity, control and guilt, ontological security in collaborative e-learning groups can be central to the effective work of the groups (McConnell, 2005). Ontological security is a state coined by Erikson and described as a sense of order and continuity in regard to an individual’s experiences by Anthony Giddens which has some crucial place in sustaining group’s existence, development and learning. According to Giddens, all human beings, in all cultures, preserve a division between their self-identities and the `performances` they put on in specific social context, in this example, group learning. In addition to that, the intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics, the paradoxical tensions of individual and group development, and the paradoxical nature of group dynamics issues (Smith, 2008, p.326) might end up with conflictual or chaotic situations which have potential to influence individual or group learning. At this point, ontological security related feelings might trigger or avoid aforementioned situations. Therefore, in this study, I deal with the group dynamics from the perspective of ontological security.

In order to address these issues, I utilize from the data from a study I carried out. This study was conducted on third year undergraduate students enrolled in a Computer Education and Instructional Technology programme. Students had both face to face and virtual education during one term. At the end of the term, I had two focus group meetings with the students and individual interviews with two students. The outcome of this study is discussed in this paper within the context of virtual learning group dynamics and ontological security. In addition to theoretical aspects, some practical suggestions presented for practitioners at the end of this research.