Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

By Rogers Hall; Naomi Miyake et al. | Go to book overview

Two empirical studies of computer-supported collaborative learning in science: methodological and affective implications.
Kim Issroff*, Eileen Scanlon+ and Ann Jones+*Higher Education Research and Development Unit, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK
+ Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK
Abstract
In this paper the results and implications of two studies of computer-supported collaborative learning are presented and implications discussed. The first study was an experimental study in a British secondary school, while the second study followed a group of primary school children in a naturalistic context. Assessing learning situations is discussed with an emphasis on the affective factors. The differences between the products, the interactions and the outcomes of learning situations are discussed along with the research methodology. There is an emphasis on pre- and post-testing, naturalistic and experimental studies and time-based analyses.
Introduction
Many studies of computer-supported collaborative learning in schools have been conducted. Here we present the findings of two contrasting studies of computer-supported collaborative learning in science, one conducted in a secondary, one in a primary school and discuss their methodological implications. The paper begins with a short summary of the theoretical background followed by a discussions of the two studies.
Theoretical background
The aim of this research was to address the following questions:
1. What is the nature of students' collaborations with/around the computer?
2. How can we study and assess effective computer- supported collaborative learning?
3. How do students feel about using computers in a learning context?

A review of existing literature showed that there it is not clear that computer-supported collaborative learning is not necessarily beneficial relative to individual learning ( O'Malley and Scanlon, 1990, Del Marie Rysavy and Sales, 1990) and also that very little attention has been paid to the affective aspects of computer-supported collaborative learning. Some studies have found that collaborative learning has enhanced achievement, there have been studies in which learning is not enhanced, and recently, a study in which peer interaction inhibited learning. Successful collaboration was found by Blaye et al. ( 1991) who found on a planning task that children working as pairs were more likely to succeed than children working alone. In contrast, Messer et al. ( 1992) found that peer interaction did not facilitate learning on a balancing task, and in fact, inhibited learning.

Relatively little research has been carried out into what it is about working with the computer that motivates the students and how this affects the learning process and learning outcomes ( Lens, 1992). Much of the research on computers in education has involved pre-testing and post-testing students' ability where investigators have focused on the change in a student's ability or knowledge using these tests, often making vague and anecdotal claims about affective outcomes. There has been very little research on how psychological factors, like motivation, are affected when students learn from the computer.

Ames ( 1984) has studied different learning situations from a motivational perspective, but she has not researched learning situations with a computer. Ames claims that children's evaluation of performance is a function of perceived success or failure. In a cooperative situation, group performance is salient, which is contrasted with an individual setting where the consistency of one's performance over time is important and in a competitive situation, social comparison information is important. As a consequence of this competitive structures promote egoistic or social comparative orientations, cooperative structures elicit moral orientations and individualistic structures evoke achievement-mastery orientations. Thus in cooperative settings there is a valuing of effort within the achievement context of cooperation. Thus the focus is directed on group performance over and above any individual characteristics.

The last ten years has seen a shift in the studies of computer-supported collaborative learning from

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Proceedings of CSCL '97: The Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, December 10-14, 1997, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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