Knowledge Construction in Collaborative Concept Mapping: A Case Study
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DESCRIPTIONhttp://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
KnowledgeConstructioninCollaborativeConceptMapping:ACaseStudyHongGao1,MargaretaMariaThomson2*,EShen31,3FloridaStateUniversity2*NorthCarolinaStateUniversity1Hong.Gao@fldoe.org;email@example.com;firstname.lastname@example.orgAbstractThis 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
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).
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
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 respectively that are appropriatelyrelated to thegiven topic (BesterfieldSacre,Gerchak,Lyons,Shuman,&Waolfe,2004).Thetotalofalloftheproper elements was then calculated and eachindividual concept map was categorized into low,medium,orhighquality.Theratingresultsthenwereused to form groups so that members in a groupwould have different levels of understanding of thetopic.Thiswas followedby inclass instructiondoneby theinstructor, and a collaborative concept mapping
activity that lasted for about 35 minutes. Instructionfor theactivitywasgiven to thestudentsprior to theactivity and each groupwas given amarker and an11 by 17 dryerase sheet to construct the conceptmap. The individually produced concept maps werereturned to the individuals at the beginning of thecollaborative concept mapping activity and theparticipantswere told that theywere allowed touseanyreferencematerialsduringtheactivity.Thegroupswere videotaped while they were engaged in thecollaborativeconceptmappingactivity.Awebbased surveywas launched inBlackboard onthe same day of collaborative concept mappingactivity to gather information on individualsexperience of the collaborative concept mappingsession. The students were given four days tocomplete the survey.Thedata from the surveywerereviewedinpreparationforthequestionsforthefocusgroups. A focus group session with the group wasconducted within a week from the collaborativeconceptmapping session. It lasted for 1.5 hours andwas audio taped.Prior to the focus groups,videoofthe collaborative concept mapping sessions andresponses from the survey were reviewed briefly todraftquestionsforthefocusgroup.
Two indexes of knowledge construction were thegroup conceptmap and the interaction thatoccurredduringthecollaboration.Specifically,thefirstindexofknowledge isreferredasa)theproduct,andthis isthegroup concept map produced in the collaborativeconcept mapping activity and the second index ofknowledge is referred as b) the process, whichrepresents the types of interaction that occurredduring the activity to assess the quality of theinteraction.First, to examine the product, namely the groupconcept map we examined the total number ofconcepts, links, labels (linking words or phrases todenote the relationship between different concepts)andcrosslinks.Followingthat,toexaminetheprocess,namely the interaction that occurred during thecollaborativeconceptmappingweanalyzedthevideodata,afterthevideotapewasreviewedandtranscribed.This isfollowedbyseveral iterationsoftestcodingtobuild and revise the coding scheme (Appendix 1)bytwoindependentcoders.Afterapredeterminedinterrater reliability of 85% was reached, the wholetranscriptwascoded.
After that, the videotape of mapping sessions wasreviewedtoidentifyeachofthecomponents(subjects,tools,objects,rules,community,anddivisionoflabor)intheactivitysystem.Theprimarydistinctionbetweendifferentactivity systems is theobjectof the subjects.That is, if there is a substantial change in thegoal(s)that motivate the subject to participate and/orcomplete the activity, one activity system transformstoanother.Aftertheidentificationofthecomponents,the videotapes reviewed for another time for majorproblems in the process of collaborative conceptmapping session. Special attention will be given totensions or conflictswithin and between the activitysystems.All the tensionsorconflictedrevealed in thevideo and confirmed by the data from the onlinesurveyandthefocusgrouparepresentedbelow.
The results of the analysis will be presented in thefollowingorder.Theresultsofknowledgeconstructionwill be presented first. A preliminary data analysisexaminedthetwoindexesofknowledgeconstruction:a)theproduct,thisisthegroupconceptmapproducedin the collaborative conceptmapping activity and b)the process, which represents the types of interactionthatoccurredduring theactivity toassess thequalityoftheinteraction.Thisisfollowedbyasecondarydataanalysis, a more indepth analysis regarding theactivitysystemcomponents,adetaileddescriptionoftheelementsintheactivitysystem:thesubjects,thetools,the objects, the rules and regulations that wereobserved by the group members both explicitly andimplicitly, community, and the division of labor.Observationsoftheelementsthenwillbetiedbacktothecommentsfromthefocusgroupinterviewtodetectpossible tensions that have existed and may haveaffectedthegroupsdecisionmakingprocess.
First Index of Knowledge: a) The Product GroupConceptMapThe first index of knowledge construction is theproduct, in this case the group map. The groupconcept map (see Figure 2) consisted of three majorsections: the middle section that approachedconstructivism from the perspective of learningcommunitieswhere learners interactwith theirpeers,moreadvanced learners,andmentors.Thesectiononthe right addressed constructivism as a type oflearning environment and the advantages of using
suchenvironment.Thesectionontheleftdepictedtheelementsintheprocessofconstructivism.Aninspectionofthegroupmaprevealedbothpositiveand negative aspects of the map construction andprocess leading to thisoutcome.Thegro...