Academic dissertation 5.12.2008: Ms. Raija Hämäläinen

Hämäläinen, R. 2008.Designing and Investigating Pedagogical Scripts to Facilitate Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning
University of Jyväskylä. Institute for Educational Research. Research Reports 24. ISSN 1455-447X, ISBN 978-951-39-3443-9 (pdf).

Available on the internet.


Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) appears as a promising social approach to foster learning. Thus, recent studies have indicated that when learners are left on their own, it is often difficult for teams to engage in productive interactions. Therefore, the use of collaboration scripts as instructional support has been presented as a possibility to trigger productive collaborative activities. This study explores collaboration scripts as a pedagogical method to facilitate group processes in virtual environments at authentic educational contexts. The study thus addressed three major aims: 1) To elaborate theoretical guidelines for design of macro-level (pedagogical) collaboration scripts. 2) To develop methodological tools to analyze group variations in macro-scripted collaboration. 3) To design four different pedagogical macro-scripts and examine how these scripts guide group activities and how the activity of different groups varies despite the same scripted environment.

This study implemented a design-based research approach. The study consists of four interventions, which modify real-world settings by integrating a theory of computer-supported collaboration into the design of the collaboration macro-scripts. The empirical experiments were conducted to enhance an understanding of group collaboration in macro-scripted conditions. The following general guidelines on qualitative analysis were made and four-step procedure may be used when analyzing groups collaboration in macro-scripted conditions: (1) verifying data, (2) examining whether the groups followed the structure of the script, (3) analyzing if the group work was collaborative or non-collaborative, and (4) comparing the main differences between groups, despite use of the same scripted environment.

The findings indicate that macro-scripts as external support can help students proceed in solving learning tasks. In all the studies, groups followed the script. However, none of the scripts could guarantee equal and high-level collaboration within the teams, and there was also considerable variation between the groups in this respect. The findings indicate that different groups acted differently, regardless of using the same pedagogical core idea and “ideal” scripts. The biggest differences occurred in collaboration and the roles assumed in a group. According to this study defining and introducing a core pedagogical idea is challenging because of the groups variations. Designing macro-scripts is more complicated than integrating core pedagogical ideas (based on the former research findings) into lesson plans. Findings assign that for different learning goals (learning concrete work skills vs. understanding theoretical concepts) there is a need for different kinds of core pedagogical ideas and external support through which scripts are expected to trigger collaboration. Aside from taking into account the learning goals, this study suggests that learners’ characteristics’ and roles should also be considered in scripting. In a future there is a need to find an optimal level of scripting for different kinds of collaborative learning situations which allow for differences regarding different learners. In the optimal situation, core design principles, different roles assigned, and learners’ characteristics (such as engagement, effort and focus) should intertwine.

Keywords: collaborative learning, computer supported collaborative learning, learning process, learning context