Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Wikis for a Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Module for Secondary School Science

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Wikis for a Collaborative Problem-Solving (CPS) Module for Secondary School Science

Article excerpt

Introduction

Collaborative problem-solving (CPS) in online environments can afford high levels of interactions among learners which can serve to develop critical thinking skills (Kim & Song, 2006; Manathunga & Hernandez-Leo, 2015). The authentic and non-linear approach in problem-solving with sufficient support from peers, instructors and the learning environment can support learning (Cela, Sicilia & Sanchez, 2015; Heo, Lim, & Kim, 2010; Puntambekar, 2006; Siraj & Norman, 2012; Vaughan & Garrison, 2005). Collaborative learning and problem-solving have also been shown to be effective in science education, yet few studies have examined online collaboration and problem-solving in science (Slotta & Linn, 2000; van der Spa, 2004; Turcotte, 2012). In this paper, the integration of collaborative problem solving in a wiki to support science education is addressed. What is perhaps unique is the investigation of collaboration and interaction activities in the wiki and the measurements made to determine how CPS activities in the wiki may have contributed to learning science.

In Malaysia, mathematics and science achievement have declined in the last 5 years (Ministry of Education Malaysia, 2013). In order to assist in improving the education system, several shifts have been identified in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 to ensure that students could compete globally (MOE, 2013). One of the shifts identified is for the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) using new pedagogies to deliver quality education. However, in Malaysian schools, CPS and new pedagogies are rarely used in teaching science in secondary schools (Mohamad Said, 2011). Teachers generally teach facts and concepts, and emphasize memorization and recall (DeWitt & Siraj, 2008; Phang, Abu, Ali, & Salleh, 2012). Teachers perceive there is a lack of time for completing the syllabus in the classroom and rarely use ICT for instruction (DeWitt & Siraj, 2008). In addition, to be able to employ ICT for instruction, teachers require knowledge of online pedagogies. The principles of an online pedagogy include: (a) students are responsible for their learning as they search for materials and build their knowledge, and (b) students should collaborate and interact while working on projects (Pelz, 2004).

This study investigates to what extent CPS can support those principles of online pedagogy in the context of teaching science in a Malaysian school. This study is a single case with a specific cultural context; however, it can assist in the implementation of online CPS in other schools in Malaysia and in the region. A module using a wiki was used in this study. Due to the lack of time, the CPS module was implemented outside the classroom after school hours. A wiki was chosen to minimize the burden on teachers while emphasizing collaborative problem solving. It is assumed that successful implementation requires knowledgeable and engaged teachers.

In this study, collaborative learning is defined as new knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired as a result of interactions in a group (Jonassen, Lee, Yang, & Laffey, 2005). Collaborative mLearning occurs when new knowledge and skills can be accessed anywhere and anytime in online environments, and the acquisition of knowledge is a result of online interactions in a group (DeWitt & Siraj, 2008). These online interactions include postings on wikis, discussion forums and chat groups.

Purpose of the research

This study investigates to what extent a module using a wiki for online CPS is useful for learning science. The research questions were:

* What kinds of student interactions occur in a wiki for learning science?

* To what extent does CPS in a wiki encourage social interactions, and cognitive processes?

* To what extent does the module improve achievement?

Interactions for understanding in science

In science instruction, providing opportunities for interaction and collaboration is important for learners to acquire scientific knowledge (Etkina, Mestre, & O'Donnell, 2005; Hogan & Fisherkeller, 2005; Osbourne & Henessy, 2003). …

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