knowledge construction in collaborative concept mapping: a case study

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http://www.jitae.org/paperInfo.aspx?ID=5205#Abstract This qualitative study examined the process of knowledge construction of a bounded case study (a group of graduate students). Participants were from the United States and were enrolled in an Educational Psychology course; they were collaboratively involved in the process of knowledge construction using concept maps as the primary data. To examine the processes and tensions during the knowledge construction activity we used the lens of the Activity Systems Theory. Study findings showed that the process of knowledge construction differed from individual to individual based on their domain expertise and concept map procedures. Also, one of the primary tools used in this activity, language, was focused upon by all participants and was identified as a source of tension as well in the group. Attempts were made by the group to establish the language used in the corresponding portion of the concept map constructed. Instructional implication

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  • JournalofInformationTechnologyandApplicationinEducationVol.2Iss.1,March2013www.jitae.org

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    KnowledgeConstructioninCollaborativeConceptMapping:ACaseStudyHongGao1,MargaretaMariaThomson2*,EShen31,3FloridaStateUniversity2*NorthCarolinaStateUniversity1Hong.Gao@fldoe.org;2*pmm2121@gmail.com;3ess0086@fsu.eduAbstractThis qualitative study examined the process of knowledgeconstructionofabounded case study (agroupofgraduatestudents).ParticipantswerefromtheUnitedStatesandwereenrolled in an Educational Psychology course; they werecollaboratively involved in the process of knowledgeconstruction using conceptmaps as the primary data. Toexamine the processes and tensions during the knowledgeconstructionactivityweusedthelensoftheActivitySystemsTheory. Study findings showed that the process ofknowledge construction differed from individual toindividualbasedontheirdomainexpertiseandconceptmapprocedures. Also, one of the primary tools used in thisactivity,language,wasfocuseduponbyallparticipantsandwas identified as a source of tension aswell in the group.Attemptsweremadebythegrouptoestablishthelanguageused in the corresponding portion of the concept mapconstructed. Instructional implications for task constructionand approach facilitating knowledge construction arediscussedinconnectionwithstudyfindings.KeywordsCognitive Modeling; Concept Map; Activity Systems Theory;QualitativeMethodology

    Introduction and Purpose

    Astheresearchfindingsoncollaborativelearningandcooperative learningaredisseminated(D.W.Johnson&Johnson,1974;R.T.Johnson&Johnson,1979,1988),the interests of both researchers and practitionersshiftedfrombeingmostlyconcernedaboutlearningatindividual level to knowledge construction at grouplevel (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1996, 2003; Lamon,Reeve, & Scardamalia, 2001; Scardamalia, 2002;Scardamalia&Bereiter,1994).Many instructional strategies that were found to beeffective have been implemented or are beingimplemented in group setting. Concept mapping isoneofsuchinstructionalstrategies.Individualconceptmappinghasbeenfoundtobepowerfulinimproving

    learning and learner attitudes (Horton,McConney,Gallo, Woods, Senn, & Hamelin, 1993;Jegede,Alaiyemola,&Okebukola,1990;Littrell,1999;Mason, 1992; Mukama, 2010). In addition, cognitivescientists have found that external representationsassist problem solving (Zhang, 1997, 1998) andresearch on shared representations also point to thepotential benefits of using and/or creating externalartifacts to support discourse and learning in bothfacetofaceandonlineenvironments (Mukama,2010;Suthers, 1999, 2001a, 2001b; Suthers, Girardeau, &Hundhausen,2002;Suthers&Hundhausen,2001,2002;Woods,Senn,&Hamelin,1993).Concept mapping in group setting, or collaborativeconcept mapping, is a process where two or moreindividualsareengaged incoordinatedandsustainedeffortsinthecreationofoneormoreconceptmapsinordertolearnandconstructknowledge.However,theneed for studies on collaborative concept mapping,especially focusingonparticularitiesof languageandcommunication styles still exists. First and foremost,most of the studies on concept mapping wereconducted at individual level andourunderstandingof collaborative conceptmapping isnot adequate foreffective implementation in practice. In addition,limited research studies on collaborative conceptmapping have generated mixed findings across andwithinstudies:somefoundthatgroupsusingconceptmapping produced more interaction related toconcepts and relationships between concepts (Boxtel,Linden,Roelofs,&Erkens,2002)andgroupsgeneratedverbalbehaviorssimilar to thoseofscientists (Roth&Roychoudhury, 1992, 1993, 1994). In contrast, Chiu(2003)foundthatstudentsdevotedsignificantamountof time to task collaboration,procedure coordination,and team coordination rather than conductingdiscussions on the concepts, propositions, orrelationships. Along the same line, Carter (1998)found that the concept mapping activity did not

  • www.jitae.orgJournalofInformationTechnologyandApplicationinEducationVol.2Iss.1,March2013

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    enhance learner interactionand thestudentpairshaddifficulty in forming relationships between differentconceptsandexpressingideasinhierarchicalstructure.Conflictingevidenceisalsofoundinthesameresearchstudies.Forinstance,alongwiththepositivefindings,Roth & Roychoudhury (1993) also found that someinaccurate ideas were never challenged and becameingrained.Giventhelackofresearchandmixedfindingsfromthestudies,thisstudyistotakeacloselookattheprocessof knowledge construction by analyzing the types ofinteractions that occurred in one group during acollaborative activity. In addition, elements from theCulturalHistorical Activity Theory (CHAT) , a toolthathelpsresearchers to fullydepictboth theactivityand the context in which the activity occurs (Nardi,1996), will be used to provide information on theknowledgeconstructionprocessbydepictingindetailwhat was involved in each of the elements in theactivity systemsandhow theymayhaveaffected thewaythegroupworked.CulturalHistorical Activity Theory (CHAT) has itsrootsintheworkofLevS.Vygotsky,thesocioculturaltheory.Vygotskysworkandhisfollowers,developedintodifferentdirections,oneofwhichisactivitytheory(AT). The emphasis of activity theorists is on thepsychologicalimpactsoftheelementsoftheorganizedsocial activity into the outcome of such activity.CulturalHistoricalActivityTheorystatesthatactivity,not necessarily the language (word) is the unit ofanalysis for social development, cultural or mentaldevelopment. Engestrom (1999), sees shared activity,collaborative activity as the unit of analysis for theactivity theory, and not necessarily the individualactivity.Theprocessof transformation is the focus inhisresearchwhenanalyzingsocialactivity(orpractice)aswellastheexaminationofthesocialworldstructureand the conflictual nature of human interactionsduring the activity. The tensions and contradictionsduring the social practice areunderstood as motiveforceanddevelopment (p.9)which triggerchanges,reasons for dialogue in the group and therefore,reorganizationsofthesocialactivity.Consequentlyitsnot only the individuals, the activity systemsparticipants that are modified through the mediatedactivity, but the environment (e.g., physical, social,psychological)aswell.A model of the CulturalHistorical Activity Theory(CHAT) comprisedof six elements (seeFigure 1 aswell), isdescribedas follows: (1) subject,who canbe

    an individual or a group of people involved in anactivity; (2)object is what motivates the subject(s) toengage in the activity and guide the effort in certaindirection;(3)instrumentsortools,whichrefertoboththe physical tools (tangible tools) and psychologicaltoolssuchassignsystemsthatthesubject(s)employtocarryouttheactivityandachievetheobject;(4)rules,the regulations that the subjects observe, (5)community , thegroup towhich the subjectbelongs,and (6) division of labor , which is related to themanner in which the task is horizontally dividedamongthesubjectsandtheperceivedlevelofexpertise(Cole,1985,1999;Cole&Engestrom,1993;Davydov&Radzikhovskii,1985).

    FIG.1ELABORATEDACTIVITYSYSTEM(ENGESTROM&MIETTINEN,1999)

    Methods

    ParticipantsandcontextAqualitativecasestudydesignisselectedtoservethepurpose of the study. One case, a group of fourgraduate students enrolled in a Learning andCognition course in an Educational PsychologyDepartmentatamajoruniversityintheUnitedStates,wasexaminedindepth.Particularattentionwasgivento the collaborative concept mapping activity wherethegroupworkedtogethertocreateaconceptmaponconstructivism,thetopicgivenbytheinstructorforthecollaborativeconceptmappingtask.The four participants were graduate students indifferent programs of study at a major southeasternU.S. university. To protect the anonymity ofparticipants, pseudonyms are used for their names.Brendawasinherfiftiesatthetimeofthestudy,hadamasters degree in distance education and was adoctoral student in her second year in InstructionalSystems Program, in the Educational Psychology

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    Department. Buno, a male in his late thirties, was asecond year doctoral student in MathematicsEducation, in theMathematicsandScienceEducationDepartment.TomandBob,theothertwoparticipants,bothwere in their first year of theirmastersdegreeprogram in Instructional Systems Program in theEducational Psychology Department. Also, theyshared the same career background, having militarystatus. Tom, has been with the U.S. coast guard fortwelveyears,andBobwhooriginallycamefromAsiato U.S. for studies had worked as an instructionaldesignerforthearmyinhishomecountryforseveralyears.Among thefourparticipants,BrendaandBunohad much more exposure to the topic ofconstructivism than the other two participants andalso they were more familiar with concept mappingtechnique,asrevealedinthe individualconceptmapsand their own selfevaluations of knowledge in thearea in the focus group. Details regarding theprocedures and data collected from activities arepresentedbelow.ProceduresandDataSourcesData this study include the four concept mapsproducedindividuallypriortotheclassinstructionbyeachparticipant,theconceptmapcreatedbythegroup,the videotaped collaborative activity, the surveyresults,andtheaudiotapedfocusgroupsessionwhicharedescribedindetailalongwithstudyprocedures.First, participants were instructed to construct aconcept map individually, after a brief training onconceptmapping,onthetopicofconstructivismattheendoftheclasssessionpriortoinclassinstructiononconstructivism. The conceptmaps collected from theindividualsprovided information regarding studentsinitialunderstandingof the topic.A rating scalewasdevelopedbytheresearcherbasedonpreviousstudies(see references). The concept maps were assessed interms of the number of concepts, links, labels, andpropositions res