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Enhancing learning through dialogue and reasoning within collaborative problem solving

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posted on 11.06.2007, 16:11 by J.W. Hamilton
A co-constructivist view of learning places a significant emphasis on classroom interaction and social learning. ‘Students prefer an active to a passive role; they prefer transaction to transmission; and they want to learn through a range of activities’ (Morgan and Morris, 1999). Technology and design has the potential to provide opportunities for students to be active in their learning: to discuss, to think, to plan, to make decisions, to reflect and apply. Consequently, teachers need to provide classroom learning environments that will promote learner empowerment through collaboration, interdependence and problem solving dialogue. The present study focuses on the use of dialogue as a tool for thinking and reasoning within collaborative problem solving. Two groups of students were involved: a PGCE group of student teachers (Case Study 1) and a group of eleven-year-old primary school pupils (Case Study 2). Each group was operating within the context of a normal classroom setting. Stories were used to provide a context or ‘natural setting’ for practical problem solving. In both case studies the role of the tutor was to encourage learner centred dialogue, experimentation and active engagement with the problem(s). PGCE students were asked to complete two questionnaires, one prior to the activity and one upon completion. Primary school children completed only one evaluative questionnaire at the end of their activity. Video and audio recordings of both groups were used to provide transcripts that enabled a more detailed conversation analysis to be undertaken. This analysis showed the importance of interaction in learning and the kind of talk and collaboration that is needed to facilitate such learning. The extent to which the PGCE student teachers were able to identify and use the range of higher order thinking skills embedded within technology and design, problem solving activity was also investigated. Analysis of the data revealed significant changes in PGCE student perceptions of the contribution of technology and design to the development of children’s thinking. The post-task questionnaire indicated heightened awareness of the qualitative nature of the task, especially the value of collaborative learning and dialogue within problem solving. The primary school pupils identified fully with the story context, and it was this that fuelled their high levels of interaction and collaboration. Through a careful use of language, at critical incidents in the problem solving process, the teacher was able to scaffold pupil learning and provide the kind of assistance that enabled the pupils to achieve at much higher levels than they would have done unaided. The importance of learning through active engagement, using a problem solving dialogue, was highlighted in both case studies



  • Design

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  • D&T Association Conference Series



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This is a conference paper