Collaborative Online Learning: A Constructivist Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 4, No . 1, March ... Collaborative Online Learning: A Constructivist Example ... Clarion, PA USA ...

  • Published on
    05-Feb-2018

  • View
    216

  • Download
    3

Transcript

MERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008109CollaborativeOnlineLearning:AConstructivistExampleDonnaAshcraftProfessorofPsychologyClarionUniversityofPennsylvaniaClarion,PAUSAashcraft@clarion.eduThomasTreadwellProfessorofPsychologyWestChesterUniversityofPennsylvaniaWestChester,PAUSAttreadwell@wcupa.eduV.KrishnaKumarProfessorofPsychologyWestChesterUniversityofPennsylvaniaWestChester,PAUSAvkumar@wcupa.eduAbstractWhile many other disciplines have implemented constructivist pedagogical changes,psychologyhasbeenslower to implementsimilareducational reform. In thisarticlewedescribe a constructivist method to teach group processes. Pretest/Posttest dataindicate this type of learning experience results in significant increases in studentscontent knowledge in four targeted areas (American Psychological Association writingstyle, group processes, social psychology, and research methodology) from thebeginningtotheendofthesemester.Studentperceptiondataindicatestudentslearnedcontent"aswellas"process"informationintheonlinecollaborativecourse.Keywords: OnLine Collaborative Learning,Electronic Group Development , SocialConstructiveness, VideoConferencing,Webboard,ChatRooms, FileManager,CourseContent Evaluation, Student Perceptions, Project Guides (peer mentors), CORALPedagogy,SocialPsychological.IntroductionConstructivismisadecadesoldphilosophythatsuggeststhatlearnersdevelop(orconstruct)theirownknowledgethroughexaminationof theirexperiences, i.e.,bymakingmeaningof theirownworld(e.g.,Dewey,1938Piaget,1970Vygotsky,1978).Whileotherfieldshaveembracedthistypeoflearningasmoreeffectivethantraditionalobjectivistmethods,suchaslecturing,andhaveimplementededucationalreform to reflect this perspective, psychology, and other social sciences, have beenmuch slower toacceptandutilizethisformoflearning(U.S.DepartmentofEducation,2004).Infact,discoverylearning,which is sometimesmisinterpreted as a constructivistmethod, has been criticized as an instructionalmethodofthepastinarecentarticleintheAmericanPsychologist (Mayer,2004),onethatdidnotmeettheexpectationsitpromised.While some interpret constructivism as pure discovery learning, such assumptions are based onfundamentalmisunderstandingsofconstructivistpedagogy.Constructivismisnotthesameasunguideddiscovery learning, i.e., as group work with little or no guidance from the instructor. This erroneousmailto:ashcraft@clarion.edumailto:ttreadwell@wcupa.edumailto:vkumar@wcupa.eduMERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008110assumption that the two concepts are equivalent implies that students must develop their ownknowledge without the aid of instructordesigned activities that lead students to understand courseconcepts.Nothingcouldbefurtherfromthetruth.Constructivistteachersdonotassumethatstudentsmust reinvent science. Instead, theyutilizeactivitiesanddiscussion todrawknowledgeoutof theirstudents.AsVrasidas(2000)notes,learnersshouldbeprovidedwiththetools,resources,andsupportnecessarytomanagetheirownlearningandassignedtasks(p.9).Thesetwoteachingmethods(activitiesanddiscussion)illustratetwobasicschoolsofthoughtwithintheconstructivist paradigm: personal and social constructivism. In personal constructivism, knowledge isdevelopedthroughcognitiveactivitythatinterpretsandorganizes,orreorganizes,experiences.Insocialconstructivism,knowledge is developed throughcognitiveactivity thatoccursduring thediscussionofexperiences with other people. The social interaction is necessary for the cognitive interpretation,organization,orreorganizationtooccur.However,itmustbenotedthatsome,butnotall,groupworkisconstructivist.Forexample,cooperativelearning,wherebystudentsdivideuppartsofassignmentsandcomplete those parts on their own, is not (social) constructivist in nature because students do notinteract together in ways to encourage cognitive reorganization. Collaborative learning, on the otherhand,wherebystudentsinteractandbuildoneachothersideas,isconstructivistinnature.Similarly,notalllearningactivitiesareconstructivist.Mayer(2004)distinguishesbetweenactivitiesthatarecognitiveand those thatarebehavioral,andrightlyso. It is importanttonote thatnotall learningactivitiesareconstructivistinnature.Constructivism,bydefinition,involvescognitiveactivitythatallowsforanunderstandingofourworld.Studentparticipationinactivitiesthatlackcognitiveengagementisnotconsideredconstructivistinnature.Giventhelargequantityofsupportiveresearchonconstructivistmethods,coupledwiththeendorsementof these teachingmethods by theDepartment of Education and theNationalResearchCouncil (e.g.,National Research Council, NRC, 2000) one can assume that constructivist teaching methods areeffective,notonlyinotherdisciplinessuchasthenaturalsciences,butinsocialsciencesaswell,aslongasappropriategroupandindividualactivitiesareprovided.In this study we present evidence supporting constructivist teaching in an online social psychologylaboratorycourseanddescribeaconstructivistteachingmethodforthestudyofsocialpsychologicalandgroup processes, one that provides guidance to the students developing their knowledge. Anassessmentofthismethodisalsoaddressedusinginstrumentsthatevaluatecontentknowledgegainedbystudentsandthatevaluatewhetherstudentshavegainedany"process"skills,i.e.,whetherstudentsdevelopedanynewproceduresorskillsthatcanassisttheirlearning.CollaborativeOnlineResearchandLearning(CORAL)CourseDesignInparticular,wedescribeourCollaborativeOnlineResearchandLearning (CORAL)methodwherebystudents from two universities, enrolled in two different courses, form groups who work together onsemesterlong projects designed to help them learn about group processes. Teams comprised ofstudentsfrombothuniversitiescompletearesearchproposalonatopicpertainingtobothcoursetopics.Whileengagedinthecompletionoftheproposal,teammembersobservetheirgroup'sbehaviors.Throughout the semester, student teams complete collaborative analyses that are designed to helpstudentslearnsocialpsychologicalconcepts.Forexample,studentsstudyTuckmans(1965)stagesofgroupdevelopment,grouproles,communicationpatterns,groupnorms,persuasion,socialloafing,socialinfluence, ingroupsandoutgroups,homogeneitybias, theselfservingbias,andsuperordinategoals.Studentsreadseveralrelevantarticlesonthetopics,completeactivitiesdesignedtoillustrateconceptsby using their own group's behaviors as examples, and report their team's group processes in acollaborativelywrittenpaper.(Theactualassignmentdescriptionscanbefoundathttp://coral.wcupa.edu.) Studentsuseavarietyof technological tools tocommunicateacross,andwithinsites, tocompleteassignments.Thisincludesdiscussionboards,videoconferencing,filemanagers,onlinecalendars,andchat rooms. (Foramoredetaileddescriptionof theCORALcoursedesign,seeTreadwell&Ashcraft,2005.)http://coral.wcupa.edu/MERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008111HowisCORALconstructivist?The CORAL model can be described as constructivist for a number of reasons. First, there is nolecturingintheCORALcourses.Instead,studentsuseboththeirinclasstimeandoutofclasstimetoread assigned articles, understand assignments, interact with their fellow teammates, and completeassignmentsas teams.Thus, there isamovementaway fromtheobjectivist (lecturing),and teachercenteredmodeofteachingtoonethatismoreconstructivist,andlearnercentered,i.e.,anapproachthatallowsstudentstodeveloptheirownknowledge.AsVrasidas(2000)notes,Inaconstructivistcourse,the learners have a lot of control over their own learning and are given the opportunity to negotiatecontent,assignments,procedures,anddeadlines.(p.9).ThisiscertainlytrueofourCORALcourses.Studentsdetermineresearchproposaltopicsanddesignaslongastopicsarerelevanttocoursesubjectmatter.ThismeansthatnotallstudentsinaCORALcoursewilllearnthesamethingbecausedifferentteams will choose different topics for their research proposal. This is also characteristic of aconstructivistteachingpedagogy:Constructivistteachersdonotassumethatallstudentsneedtolearnthesamematerial(Vrasidas,2000).Studentteamsalsohavemuchtosayabouttheirteamsdeadlinesforpapersanddecidehowbesttocompleteassignments.Forexample,teamsdeterminewhethertheyshoulddiscussmattersoverchatrooms, discussion boards, or video conferencing. This too is constructivist. Vrasidas (2000) noteslearners should be provided with the tools needed to manage their own learning and to completeassignments, and instructors essentially become facilitators, helping students to develop their ownknowledge.CORALdoesthis:studentsaregivenassignmentguidelines,resources,andtoolssuchasdiscussionboards,chatrooms,filemanagers,andvideoconferencingsothattheycanlearn.CORALprofessorsarepresenttoanswerquestionsandmakesuggestionsthatassiststudentsintheirlearning.Studentassignmentsaredesignedspecificallywiththeobjectiveofhelpingstudentsunderstandcourseconceptsbyexaminingtheirownexperiencesinateamsetting,applyingsocialpsychologicalconceptsfrom their readings, along with applying social psychological terminology to team organization anddevelopment.Asaresultstudentsembraceconstructivistteaching/learninginasimulatedreallifeteamsetting.Finally, our approach is social constructivist in nature as a result of assignments being completedcollaboratively. To meet this standard, students learn that interaction is essential to completeassignmentssuccessfullyand thatsocialinteraction is thehallmarkofsocialconstructivism. Learningtakes place, according to this approach, because students discuss material and assignmentscollaboratively,thusbringingaboutcognitivechanges(i.e.,learning).Additionally, we employ the use of project guides. These are students who have previously taken aCORAL course and who serve as peermentors to those students who are currently enrolled in theCORAL course (Treadwell, Ashcraft, Teeter&Ritchie, 2006). These project guides help students tounderstand course assignments, the collaborative process, group processes, and technology. Theyserve as a buffer between the students and the professors and gradually socialize students tounderstand that learning isbasedon social interaction in taskcompletion. Theyalsoserve tomovestudentsawayfromtheteachercenteredmodeltoacollaborativelearningstudentcenteredmodel.Thisdoes not come easily tomost students but the influence peermentors (project guides) have on theirpeersshouldnotbeunderestimated.Aprojectguidestructuresthelearningexperiencejustenoughtomake sure that students get clear guidance and parameters within which to achieve the learningobjectives, yet the learning experience should be open and free enough to allow for the learners todiscover, enjoy, interact, and arrive at their own socially verified version of truth. The interactionsstudentshavewithprojectguidesaresocialconstructivistinnatureasistheideaoftheprofessorbeingafacilitatorratherthanalecturer.Thus,thecourseisstudentoriented,ratherthanteacheroriented.MethodParticipantsParticipantsconsistedof181studentsenrolledina200levelsocialpsychologylaboratorycourse,a300levelsocialpsychologycourse,ora400levelsocialpsychologyseminar.ThesameinstructorsofferedMERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008112the courses and data were collected over eight semesters (four years). Participation was voluntaryinasmuchasthestudentswerefreetoenroll inothersectionsofferedintheirdepartmentsusingmoretraditionalmethods.Studentssignedaconsentformtoparticipateintheresearchcompletedduringthecourse.InstrumentsCourseContentPreandPosttests. Toassessstudentslearningofsubjectmatter,fourtenquestion,multiplechoicetestsassessingknowledgeoftopicscoveredduringthecourseswereadministeredatthebeginningandendofeachsemester.Thefourtopicscoveredinthetestsrelatedtodevelopmentof(a)research proposals, (b) American Psychological Association (APA) writing style, (c) group processes(e.g., group norms, communication patterns, group roles, Tuckmans, 1965, stages), and (d) socialpsychologicalconcepts(e.g.,ingroupsandoutgroups,socialloafing,superordinategoals,attributions,persuasion,socialinfluence).Students Perceptions. Students also selfreported their perceptions of knowledge gained in the fourtargetedareasof (a) researchmethodology, (b)APAwritingstyle, (c)groupprocesses,and(d) socialpsychologyandintheirdevelopmentof"process"skills(skillsthatwereinvolvedinthelearningprocess,suchas interpersonal, timemanagement,andnegotiationskills). ThiswasmeasuredusingasevenpointLikertscalerangingfrom"verymuchdisagree"to"verymuchagree"thatwasadministeredattheendofthesemester.Studentsindicatedhowmuchtheyagreedordisagreedonthetopics(seeStudentPerceptionScaleinAppendix).ResultsPreandPosttestLearningQuestionnairesDependentsamplesttestswereusedtoseeifposttestscoreswerehigherthanthepretestscoresinthefour content areas. The results of the ttests were significant in all areas (p MERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008113Table2.PreandPosttestMeansandStandardDeviations fortheFourContentAreasContentArea N Mean StandardDeviationResearchProposalPre 180 6.944 2.04ResearchProposalPost 180 8.222 1.73APAStylePre 181 5.144 1.98APAStylePost 181 6.099 2.28GroupProcessesPre 168 5.779 1.78GroupProcessesPost 168 7.893 1.76SocialPsychologyPre 159 5.566 1.82SocialPsychologyPost 159 7.824 1.81Table3.MeansandStandardDeviationsforStudentsPerceptionsofLearningItem N Mean* StandardDeviationIlearnedalotabout:Tuckman'sstages 63 6.29 0.71GroupRoles 63 6.16 0.79GroupProcesses 63 5.76 0.91SocialPsychology 63 5.40 1.23Ingroupsandoutgroups 63 5.84 1.11SuperordinateGoals 63 5.70 1.16Attributions 63 5.43 1.27APAstyle 63 5.35 1.08Howtowritearesearchproposal 63 5.59 1.28Researchmethodology 63 5.38 1.26Howtocollaborate 63 6.38 0.73Howtousetechnology 63 5.92 1.29Iimprovedmy:Interpersonalskills 63 5.89 0.72Communicationskills 63 6.10 0.61Negotiationskills 63 5.75 0.78Timemanagementskills 63 5.76 1.25Writingskills 63 5.38 1.16Thiscoursewasbeneficialtomy 63 6.00 1.03professionaldevelopment.Iwasresponsibleformyown 63 5.59 1.10learninginthiscourse.Ilearnedalotinthiscourse. 63 6.08 0.89*Basedona7pointscale1=Istronglydisagree7=IstronglyagreeMERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008115DiscussionResultsofthestudyindicatethatCORALssocialconstructivistteachingmethodisaneffectivestrategyforstudentlearning. Thepre/posttestsofstudentcontentknowledgeindicatedastatisticallysignificantincrease inknowledgeof coursecontent inall fourof the targetedareas, i.e., students learnedaboutAPAwritingstyle,researchmethods,groupprocesses,andsocialpsychologicalconcepts,withtheuseof the CORAL pedagogy. Their test scores on these topics increased from the beginning of thesemestertotheendofthesemester.Infact,thegreatestgainsinstudentknowledgewereintheareasofgroupprocessesandsocialpsychology.Thetwoareasrepresentasimulatedviewoftheworkplacewherestudentshavetorelyoneachothertocompleteassignedtasks.Thus,throughtheircollaborativeenergy and observations of how their team worked, they learned how the constructivist modelworks.Furthermore,studentsagreedthroughselfreportthattheylearnedasignificantamountofcoursematerial through theirparticipation in theCORALcourses. Forexample, students indicated that theylearnedalotaboutTuckmans(1965)stages,superordinategoals,ingroupsandoutgroups,etc.Inother words, students were able to develop their own knowledge about group processes throughinteractionswithteammembers,examinationoftheirownbehaviors,anddiscussionoftheirownteam'sprocesses.In summary, results indicate that social psychological topics can be taught successfully in a socialconstructivistmanner,provided thatappropriate levelsofguidancearesupplied tostudents,as is thecase in CORAL. Experiencing social psychological phenomena firsthand and allowing students toconstruct their own knowledge through metacognitive processes not only permits students to learncourse content, but also encourages the development of life skills, including for example, timemanagement, critical thinking, negotiation and communication skills. Constructivist learning has beenassessedaspreferable toother traditional formsof teachingand learningand thisstudysupports theformerfindings.Wearealsoconvincedthatbroadeningtheconstructivistteachingmethodologytoothersocialsciencecourseswouldbebeneficialforstudents.The learningenvironmentshouldalsobedesigned tosupportandchallenge the learner's thinkingbyprovidingappropriateguidance,i.e.,learningactivities.Weadvocategivingteammembersownershipofthe assignments (tasks) so they can create solutions allowing them to move forward in answeringproblemstheyencounterandbecomeincreasinglyresponsiblefortheirownlearning.Thecriticalgoalisforprojectguidesandfacilitatorstosupportthelearnerinbecominganeffectivethinker.Thisisachievedbyassumingmultipleroles,suchasconsultant,tutor,andcoach.Aconstructivistlearningenvironmentis thus an interventionwhere activities (tasks) are used to provide teammembers (learners) with anopportunity to discover and collaboratively construct meaning as the intervention(s) unfolds. Teammembersarerespectedasunique individuals,projectguidesserveaspeermentor(s),and instructorstakeontheroleoffacilitator(s).ReferencesDewey,J.(1938).Experienceandeducation.NewYork:CollierMacmillan.Mayer,R.E.(2004).Shouldtherebeathreestrikesruleagainstpurediscoverylearning?Thecaseforguidedmethodsofinstruction. AmericanPsychologist,59(1),1419.NationalResearchCouncil.(2000).Howpeoplelearn:Brain,mind,experienceandschool.Washington,DC:NationalAcademyPress.Piaget,J.(1970).Geneticepistemology.NewYork:ColumbiaUniversityPress.Treadwell,T., &Ashcraft,D. (2005).Pedagogy forCollaborativeOnlineResearch and Learning: TheCORALmodel.NationalSocietyforExperientialEducationQuarterly,30(1),1017.Treadwell,T.,Ashcraft,D.,Teeter,T,&Ritchie,K. (2006)Peermentor roles inacollaborativeonlineresearchand learning (CORAL)course. Compass:AMagazine forPeerAssistance,Mentorship,andCoaching.18(1),3949.MERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008116Tuckman,B.W. (1965).Developmental sequences in smallgroups.PsychologicalBulletin,6396, 384399.U.S.DepartmentofEducation.(2004).ThecomprehensiveprogramfortheFundfortheImprovementofPostsecondaryEducationforfiscalyear2005.Vrasidas,C.(2000). Constructivismversusobjectivism:Implicationsforinteraction,coursedesign,andevaluation in distance education. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, 6(4),339362.RetrievedNovember30,2005fromhttp://www.cait.org/vrasidas/continuum.pdfVygotsky,L.S.(1978).Mindinsociety. Cambridge,MA:HarvardUniversity.APPENDIXStudentPerceptionScaleName(first&last):__________________________________Date:_____________Onascaleof1to7indicatehowmuchyouagree/disagreewiththefollowingstatements.1 2 3 4 5 6 7VeryMuchDisagree VerymuchAgreeIlearnedalotabout:1. Tuckman'sstages.2. GroupRoles.3. GroupProcesses.4. SocialPsychology.5. InGroupsandOutGroups.6. SuperordinateGoals.7. Attributions.8. APAStyle.9. HowtoWriteaResearchProposal.10.ResearchMethodology.11.HowtoCollaborate.12.HowtouseTechnology.http://www.cait.org/vrasidas/continuum.pdfMERLOTJournalofOnlineLearningandTeaching Vol. 4,No. 1, March2008117Iimprovedmy:1 2 3 4 5 6 7VeryMuchDisagree VerymuchAgree13. InterpersonalSkills.14.CommunicationSkills.15.NegotiationSkills.16.TimeManagementSkills.17.WritingSkills.18.Thiscoursewasbeneficialtomyprofessionaldevelopment.19. Iwasresponsibleformyownlearninginthiscourse.20. Ilearnedalotinthiscourse.Manuscriptreceived19Sep2007revisionreceived20Feb2008.ThisworkislicensedunderaCreativeCommonsAttributionNonCommercialShareAlike2.5Licensehttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/