Daniel D. Suthers, Eva Erdosne Toth, and Arlene Weiner
University of Pittsburgh Learning Research and Development Center
To be successful, CSCL technology must be adopted by teachers and incorporated into the activities of the classroom. This paper describes a comprehensive approach to supporting teachers learning to implement computer-supported collaborative inquiry in their classrooms. The approach comprises (1) a networked software system, "Belvedere," that provides students with shared workspaces for coordinating and recording their collaboration in scientific inquiry; (2) activity plans worked out collaboratively with teachers; (3) "challenge problems" and Web-based materials designed to match and enrich the curriculum, and (4) self- and peer-assessment instruments given to students to guide the process of scientific inquiry. A fundamental aim of this work is to restructure the classroom and shift the initiative for learning activity to the students.
Technology has the potential to transform education, not just by providing students with an opportunity to learn the tools of the modern workplace, nor simply by automating aspects of the educational process. Its greater potential lies in the ability to change the organization of classes, from teacher-centered didactic instruction to student-centered collaborative inquiry [3, 8, 10]. Properly designed technology supports and facilitates collaborative approaches to learning that are recommended by numerous researchers [4, 5, 11, 17]. However, this potential is not an attribute of technology in itself. Computer supported collaborative learning (CSCL) technology will have an impact only if it is designed along with methodologies and materials that provide support for teachers who are learning to implement nontraditional activities in their classrooms, and address concerns such as integration with the curriculum and effective utilization of inadequate computer resources.
In this paper we describe a comprehensive methodology for implementing computersupported collaborative inquiry in the classroom. The approach begins with a networked software system, "Belvedere," that provides students with shared workspaces for coordinating and recording their collaboration in scientific inquiry. The approach also includes student activity plans worked out in collaboration with teachers. Students work in teams to investigate real-world "challenge problems," designed to match and enrich the curriculum with attention to National Science Education Standards . The teams plan their investigation, perform hands-on experiments, analyze their results, and report their conclusions to others. Our classroom activity plans provide teachers with specific guidance on how to manage these activities with different levels of computer resources. Teachers and students are provided with assessment instruments designed as an integral part of the curriculum. Assessment rubrics are given to the students at the beginning of their project as criteria to guide their activities. They guide peer review, as well as helping the teacher assess nontraditional learning objectives. After describing these components of our comprehensive approach to support collaborative inquiry, we describe the current use of Belvedere in several schools and discuss evaluation efforts.
The "Belvedere" software described in this paper is a complete redesign and reimplementation of a system of the same name, previously reported in [13, 14]. Belvedere's core functionality is a shared workspace for constructing "inquiry diagrams," which relate data and hypotheses by evidential relations (consistency and