In the Research section of the Wiki I posted a link to the PDF file of the 1996 book chapter I referred to, today: ÂThe evolution of research on collaborative learningÂ by Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye and OÂMalley.
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.Â
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:
ÂDuring 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.Â
I am sure this is not the only ÂshiftÂ since the original analysis of research in Collaborative Learning.