RAA#3 The Impact of Goal Focus, task type and group size…Collaborative learning discourses

R. Pfister & M. Oehl(2009). The impact of goal focus, task type and group size on synchronous net-based collaborative learning discoursesJournal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 161-176.

Purpose:  The purpose of this research was to determine if goal focus, type of task and group size affect learning outcomes and the use of chat based tools.

Methods:  The method used for the study was never specified however it was a form of mixed methods study involving 140 students volunteering to participate in learning group experiments in which their responses to various instructions were monitored and tracked.  Student  filled in a questionnaire regarding their computer experience, e-learning, chat and web enagement, and lab activity.  From that a regression model was formed.

Main findings: The main finding of this study suggest that task type and goal focus influence the overall collaboration effort, and the type of referencing and coding of messages.  Further, the addition of optional learning protocols assisted/supported collaborative learning.  Goal focus did NOT however have an impact of improved learning.  The type of task did NOT impact the type of referencing and typing activities.

Essentially, the learning protocol is more beneficial tor teaching tasks than learning tasks, and the larger the group, the better the learning outcome.

Analysis:  When I read this piece I was really hopeful to find some new nugget of information related to web based/collaborative learning; in particular so I could think about how to carry it forward to the industrial setting.  Unfortunately, the heavily jargoned study made it difficult to follow in spite of the fact that the researchers did a noble job of providing jargon definitions.

No where in the abstract or methods section did it discuss if the study results would be qualitative or quantitative in nature; you had to read through the entire article and review the tables to finally see it was a quantitative regression analysis.  In addition, the experiment was limited to a single recorded incident of about 45 minutes.  I am not sure how you assess if an intervention impacts learning after 45 minutes of time, so that was a bit of a problem for me with the study.

The origin of the article was Germany, so perhaps some of the nuance explaining the study was lost in translation.

There were some interesting findings and in the last 3 pphs of the study, the researchers finally shared the “so what” of the finding – of which were very clear and instructional to follow.  There seemed to be a lot going on in this research, and simplifying it may have not only lead to a clearer study, but cleaner results also.