Investigating computer-supported collaborative learning from an affective perspective

Issroff, Kim (1996). Investigating computer-supported collaborative learning from an affective perspective. PhD thesis The Open University.



Recent research on computer-supported collaborative learning has an emphasis on cognitive factors and experimental studies. However there are contradictory findings and disagreements about the mechanisms underpinning collaborative learning. In this thesis, computer-supported collaborative learning situations are assessed with an emphasis on the affective factors, students' perceptions and aspects of the learning situation that learners themselves find important.

Three empirical studies were conducted to highlight some of these factors.The first study investigated 11 individuals and 22 pairs of students in a secondary school using a computer to fill in a worksheet about chemistry. The second study examined 61 psychology undergraduates working collaboratively at a summer school. The third study followed a group of three primary school children working collaboratively on a dynamic document in science.

The first study found differences between individuals and pairs in terms of on-task performance but no differences between them in terms of preto post-test gain. It also showed the importance of affective factors to students. The analysis of videotapes showed changes over sessions and developments over time in students' collaborative interactions. The affective findings from the first study were supported by the results of the second study which showed that the majority of students thought that it was more important to get along with their peers than to succeed in the task. In the third study, temporal features of the interaction were analysed in a longer-term collaboration.

A number of different methodologies were used in the studies and issues concerning pre- and post-testing and the use of naturalistic and experimental studies are discussed. Time-based analyses are carried out on approximately 26 hours of videotapes of collaborative interactions and these show developments in patterns of interactions.

The thesis supports Ames' (1984) view that a moral dimension is important in collaborative learning, with findings showing that the majority of students think that it is more important to get along with their peers than to get the correct answer, with this being particularly pertinent for women. Together these studies show that both the task structure and the way in which collaboration is resourced has an impact on the products, processes and outcomes of collaborative interactions.

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