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Topic: The evolution of research on collaborative learning
Replies: 1   Last Post: Nov 22, 2004 3:38 AM

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Johann W. Sarmiento

Posts: 5
Registered: 3/1/05
The evolution of research on collaborative learning
Posted: Nov 17, 2004 12:42 PM
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In the Research section of the Wiki I posted a link to the PDF file of
the 1996 book chapter I referred to, today: “The evolution of
research on collaborative learning” by Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye and

Here is the abstract which summarizes their views very well:

"For many years, theories of collaborative learning tended to focus on
how individuals function in a group. More recently, the focus has
shifted so that the group itself has become the unit of analysis. In
terms of empirical research, the initial goal was to establish whether
and under what circumstances collaborative learning was more effective
than learning alone. Researchers controlled several independent
variables (size of the group, composition of the group, nature of the
task, communication media, and so on). However, these variables
interacted with one another in a way that made it almost
impossible to establish causal links between the conditions and the
effects of collaboration. Hence, empirical studies have more recently
started to focus less on establishing parameters for effective
collaboration and more on trying to understand the role which such
variables play in mediating interaction. In this chapter, we argue
that this shift to a more process-oriented account requires new tools
for analyzing and modeling interactions.”

Not surprisingly since this was published in 1996, there are already
hints to new directions in research. Take the 2004 Workshop on
Designing Computational Models of Collaborative Learning Interaction,
as an example:

“During collaborative learning activities, factors such as students
prior knowledge, motivation, roles, language, behavior and interaction
dynamics interact with each other in unpredictable ways, making it
very difficult to predict and measure learning effects. This may be
one reason why the focus of collaborative learning research shifted in
the nineties from studying group characteristics and products to
studying group process. With an interest in having an impact on the
group process in modern distance learning environments, the focus has
recently shifted again - this time from studying group processes to
identifying computational strategies that positively influence group
learning. This shift toward mediating and supporting collaborative
learners is fundamentally grounded in our understanding of the
interaction described by our models of collaborative learning
interaction. In this workshop, we will explore the advantages,
implications, and support possibilities afforded by the various types
of computational models of collaborative learning processes.”

I am sure this is not the only “shift” since the original analysis of
research in Collaborative Learning.

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