A Framework for Looking at Group Work in Asynchronous Online Courses Dr. Susan Lowes Teachers College/Columbia University August 2012 Background iNACOL standards: “The teacher plans, designs and incorporates strategies to encourage active learning, interaction, participation and collaboration in the online environment.” Of the fifteen elements in that standard, three refer to student-student interaction: Facilitating interaction among students Engaging students in “team problem-solving” Promoting learning through group interaction Goals of this research To look at groups working online and ask: How do groups manage themselves in an online environment? How is knowledge collectively built? How do groups establish common frames of reference, resolve discrepancies in understanding, and come to a joint understanding? What do such 21st-century skills as critical thinking and teamwork look like in online environment? To take analytical approaches from f2f group work and see how/if they adapt to analyzing group work online To contribute to the design of online learning that leads to high levels of engagement and critical thinking Site of this research A series of one- and two-year courses offered online by the International Baccalaureate (IB) through VHS More than one section of the same course Virtual classroom model with emphasis on various types of student-student interaction Methodology Discourse analysis, based on work by Brigid Barron in analyzing problem-solving in f2f classrooms Three styles of working together: Parallel interaction Associative interaction Cooperative interaction Four responses for reactions to initial proposals: Accept Ask for clarification Elaborate Reject Our adaptations We found that the problem-solving style of the group depended in part on the design of the activity, so we looked at both, and at how/if they were linked We found that we needed to look at the way a proposal was initiated as well as the response: Asking Telling Telling with a question (asking for consent) We found we need to add a category that we called “course correction,” which was generally the facilitator but could be a student Types of problem-solving styles Parallel collaboration No monitoring of others’ contributions No interchange of ideas Final product is cumulation of individual contributions Associative collaboration Some monitoring of others’ contributions Some interchange of ideas Final product is still a cumulation of individual contributions Synergistic collaboration Monitoring of others’ contributions Interchange of ideas Final project jointly created Design of group activities Cumulations Develop dictionaries, bibliographies, glossaries, timelines, family trees Tasks are simultaneous No necessary order of contributions No necessary end No need for interaction No coordination necessary Jig-saw projects Each student works on one piece Students may have roles Tasks may be serial or simultaneous All pieces are needed to create the whole BUT some jigsaw projects are really coordinated cumulative projects Finding #1 There are actually two sets of activities that demand problem-solving styles Problem-solving styles for working together as a group Problem-solving styles for responding to the content of the assignment A group’s style may differ for each Finding #2 Groups that successfully completed the task initiated the process by Telling Groups that successful completed the task responded by Accepting Groups that successfully completed therefore: Used an associative style for organizing themselves BUT THEN Used a parallel style for getting the work done There was almost no use of a synergistic style, except occasionally between two students Finding #3 This was partly because the designer believed the activity necessitated synergistic collaboration, BUT the students were able to (and did) use a parallel or associative style Finding #4 Orderly turn-taking, which organizes coordination in f2f conversations, is difficult in online environment Violations of turn-taking include overlapping posts, posts to previous threads, private and public threads This was because students were in different time zones and therefore online at different times And because of the constraints of Blackboard Finding #5 Group work online calls for different 21st century skills than group work f2f Key complaints for f2f group work: Too much socializing: not an issue online Freeloaders: a big issue online Bossy leaders: a strength online The only groups that completed the tasks had one student who took charge, assigned tasks (Telling), asked for agreement--always granted (Accepting), and then collected the work at the end Implications for instructional designers Separations in time and distance mean that the design of group activities cannot be serial but must be simultaneous If designers want group projects to be synergistic, they need to design them so that the problem-solving style cannot be parallel If students are really to hash out things together, they need time, so group projects should last more than a week but should be scaffolded so that the students don’t wait until the last minute to do the work Implications for facilitators/teachers Groups need to be small because asynchronous coordination across time and space is difficult Students need specific instructions for how to work in groups online because f2f strategies do not work Freeloading is the biggest issue and students need to know what to do if a student doesn’t show up Acting as a “boss” is necessary and needs no apology; one person should be assigned as “boss” for each project/week/task, etc. Critical thinking happens in one-to-one exchanges, not many-to-many or even one-to-many so encourage peer interactions References Brigid Barron, “Achieving Coordination in Collaborative Problem-Solving Groups,” The Journal of the Learning Sciences 9 (4), 2000: 403-436. Dazhi Yang, Jennifer Richardson, Brian F. French, James D. Lehman, “The Development of a Content Analysis Model for Assessing Students’ Cognitive Learning in Asynchronous Online Discussions,” 2009, manuscript of paper submitted for publication in Educational Technology Research & Development. Research assistance: Seungoh Paek and Devayani Tirthali, Program in Computers, Communication, Technology, and Education, Teachers College/Columbia University.