Computers, talk and learning : using computers to help coach reasoning through talk across the curriculum

Wegerif, Rupert (1995). Computers, talk and learning : using computers to help coach reasoning through talk across the curriculum. PhD thesis The Open University.



The main theme of this thesis is the role of computers as a support for reasoning through talk in the classroom. A second, closely linked, theme is the role of reasoning through talk in general intellectual development.

In the first part of the thesis the two areas of the teaching of thinking skills and the use of computers as a support for cooperative work in classrooms are explored through critical reviews of the literature and through two empirical studies. The findings of this exploratory research lead to the development of a theoretical framework for the use of computers in classrooms. This theoretical framework consists of the characterisation of a type of talk that is effective in promoting general intellectual development, a model of the structure of educational activities in which groups of children work with computers and a set of principles for the design of software to support reasoned discussion.

In the second part of the thesis the theoretical framework is explored and tested through the development and implementation of an intervention programme. A new methodology is developed to evaluate this intervention programme integrating a quasi-experimental method with both qualitative discourse analysis and computer-based discourse analysis. The findings of the evaluation support four key hypotheses which emerge from the theoretical framework. First, that there is a link between the coaching of reasoning through talk and performance on tests of general reasoning ability. Second, that the quality of computer-supported collaborative learning can be enhanced through the off-computer coaching of exploratory talk. Third, that group work at computers can in turn be used effectively to extend an educational programme designed to coach exploratory talk across the curriculum. Fourth, that computer-based collaborative learning can - be used to integrate active peer-learning with directed teaching. These findings have significant implications for educational theory and practice.

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