Date of Award

4-2012

Embargo Period

12-20-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Human-Computer Interaction Institute

Advisor(s)

Carolyn P. Rose

Abstract

Research in team science suggests strategies for addressing difficulties that groups face when working together. This dissertation examines how student teams work in project based learning (PBL) environments, with the goal of creating strategies and technology to improve collaboration. The challenge of working in such a group is that the members frequently come from different backgrounds and thus have different ideas on how to accomplish a project. In these groups, teamwork and production of successful solutions depends on whether members consider each other’s dissimilar perspectives. However, the lack of a shared history means that members may have difficulty in taking the time to share and build knowledge collectively. The ultimate goal of my research is to design strategies and technology to improve the inner workings of PBL groups so that they will learn from each other and produce successful outcomes in collaborative settings.

The field of computer supported collaborative learning has made much progress on designing, implementing, and evaluating environments that support project based learning. However, most existing research concerns students rather than instructors. Therefore, in my initial research, I explore the needs of the instructors in conducting student assessments (studies one, two). These studies identify five different group processes that are of importance from the instructors’ perspective. My subsequent research focuses on one of them, namely the process of knowledge co-construction, which is a process that instructors have significant difficulty in assessing. In order to support the assessment of the knowledge co-construction process, my research has progressed along two axes: (a) identifying conditions that support the knowledge co-construction process and its relationship to learning and knowledge transfer (studies three, four, and five), and (b) automatically monitoring the knowledge co-construction process using natural language processing and machine learning (studies six ~ nine). Studies five and eight look at a specific type of knowledge co-construction process called the idea co-construction process (ICC). ICC is the process of taking up, transforming, or otherwise building on an idea expressed earlier in a conversation. I argue that ICC is essential for groups to function well in terms of knowledge sharing and perspective taking.

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