Instructional Science

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 303–319 | Cite as

Higher-level knowledge construction in asynchronous online discussions: an analysis of group size, duration of online discussion, and student facilitation techniques

Article

Abstract

This study is concerned with the challenge of understanding what factors may influence students’ higher level knowledge construction. We defined higher level knowledge construction occurrences as the sum of the number of phases II to V measured using Gunawardena et al.’s (J Educ Comput Res 17(4):397–431, 1997) interaction analysis model. This paper is organized into two studies. In the first study, we examined the relationship between the frequency of higher level knowledge construction occurrences and group size, as well as the duration of the online discussion. Data were collected through online observations of 40 discussion forums. We found a significant positive relationship between group size and the frequency of higher level knowledge construction occurrences. However, there was no correlation between the duration of the online discussion and the frequency of such occurrences. In the second study, we examined the types of student facilitation techniques used. A further analysis of the data was conducted—of the 40 forums, 14 forums with higher incident rate of higher level knowledge construction occurrences were identified. Fourteen less frequent forums were then randomly chosen from the remaining forums. We found significant differences in the frequency of four student facilitation techniques employed between the more frequent group and the less frequent one. The results of this study suggest that using these four techniques more frequently may promote knowledge construction in asynchronous online discussions.

Keywords

Asynchronous online discussion Student facilitation Knowledge construction Group size 

References

  1. Alavi, M., & Leidner, D. E. (1999). Knowledge management systems: Issues, challenges, and benefits. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 1(7), 1–37.Google Scholar
  2. Alavi, M., & Leidner, D. E. (2001). Knowledge management and knowledge management systems: Conceptual foundations and research issues. MIS Quarterly, 25(1), 107–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chai, C. S., & Khine, M. S. (2006). An analysis of interaction and participation patterns in online community. Educational Technology & Society, 9(1), 250–261.Google Scholar
  4. Cheung, W. S., & Hew, K. F. (2005). How can we facilitate students’ in-depth thinking and interaction in an asynchronous online discussion environment? a case study. In Proceedings of the association for educational communications and technology, USA (Vol. 28, pp. 114–121).Google Scholar
  5. Cheung, W. S., & Hew, K. F. (2006). Examining students’ creative and critical thinking and student to student interactions in an asynchronous online discussion environment: A Singapore case study. Asia-Pacific Cybereducation Journal, 2(2). Retrieved November 10, 2009, from http://www.acecjournal.org/current_issue_current_issue.php.
  6. Cifuentes, L., Murphy, K. L., Segur, R., & Kodali, S. (1997). Design considerations for computer conferences. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 30(2), 177–201.Google Scholar
  7. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  8. De Laat, M. F., & Lally, V. (2003). Complexity, theory and praxis: Researching collaborative learning and tutoring processes in a networked learning community. Instructional Science, 31, 7–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dennen, V. P. (2005). From message posting to learning dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion. Distance Education, 26(1), 127–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dunlap, J. C. (2005). Workload reduction in online courses: Getting some shuteye. Performance and Improvement, 44(5), 18–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Entwistle, N., Tait, H., & McCune, V. (2000). Patterns of response to an approaches to studying inventory across contrasting groups and contexts. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 15, 33–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fauske, J., & Wade, S. E. (2003–2004). Research to practice online: Conditions that foster democracy, community, and critical thinking in computer-mediated discussions. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 36(2), 137–153.Google Scholar
  13. Foster, P. (1996). Observational research. In R. Sapsford & V. Jupp (Eds.), Data collection and analysis. London and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Goh, S. H. L., Lau, W. L., & Teo, J. S. L. (2006). Philosophical enquiry for teens. Paper presented at the ERAS conference 2006, Singapore.Google Scholar
  15. Goldberg, E., & Podell, K. (2000). Adaptive decision making, ecological validity, and the frontal lobes. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 22(1), 56–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gunawardena, C. N., Lowe, C. A., & Anderson, T. (1997). Analysis of a global online debate and the development of an interaction analysis model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing. Journal Educational Computing Research, 17(4), 397–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2008). Attracting student participation in asynchronous online discussions: A case study of peer facilitation. Computers & Education, 51, 1111–1124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2009). Participation in student-facilitated discussion forums: An empirical analysis of facilitators’ habits of mind. In B. H. Tan & S. R. Galea (Eds.), Proceedings of the 14th international conference on thinking 2009 (pp. 268–279). Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Universiti Putra Malaysia.Google Scholar
  19. Hew, K. F., Cheung, W. S., & Ng, C. S. L. (2009). Student contribution in asynchronous online discussion: A review of the research and empirical exploration. Instructional Science. doi:10.1007/s11251-008-9087-0.
  20. Hew, K. F., & Hara, N. (2007a). Empirical study of motivators and barriers of teacher online knowledge sharing. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55, 573–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hew, K. F., & Hara, N. (2007b). Knowledge sharing in online environments: A qualitative case study. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 59(14), 2310–2324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jonassen, D. H. (1997). Instructional design models for well-structured and ill-structured problem solving learning outcomes. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(1), 65–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kanuka, H., & Anderson, T. (1998). On-line social interchange, discord and knowledge construction. Journal of Distance Education, 13(1), 57–74.Google Scholar
  24. Kear, K. (2001). Following the thread in computer conferences. Computers & Education, 37, 81–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kitchner, K. S. (1983). Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognition: A three-level model of cognitive processing. Human Development, 26, 222–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lally, V. (2001). Analysing teaching and learning interactions in a networked collaborative learning environment: Issues and work in progress. In Euro CSCL 2001 (pp. 397–405). Retrieved August 7, 2008, from http://www.ll.unimaas.nl/euro-cscl/Papers/97.doc.
  27. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  28. Liu, X., Doore, B., & Li, L. (2008). Scaffolding knowledge co-construction in web-based discussions through message labeling. In K. McFerrin et al. (Ed.), Proceedings of society for information technology and teacher education international conference 2008 (pp. 3041–3046). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.Google Scholar
  29. Lu, L. L., & Jeng, I. (2006). Knowledge construction in inservice teacher online discourse: Impacts of instructor roles and facilitative strategies. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 39(2), 183–202.Google Scholar
  30. Mann, C., & Stewart, F. (2000). Internet communication and qualitative research: A handbook for researching online. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Maxwell, J. A. (1992). Understanding and validity in qualitative research. Harvard Educational Research, 62(3), 279–300.Google Scholar
  32. McLoughlin, C., &Luca, J. (2000). Cognitive engagement and higher order thinking through computer conferencing: We know why but do we know how? In A. Herrmann & M. M. Kulski (Ed.), Flexible futures in tertiary teaching. Proceedings of the 9th annual teaching learning forum, 24 February 2000. Perth: Curtin University of Technology. Retrieved November 7, 2008, from http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2000/mcloughlin.html.
  33. Meacham, J. A., & Emont, N. C. (1989). The interpersonal basis of everyday problem solving. In J. D. Sinnott (Ed.), Everyday problem solving: Theory and applications (pp. 7–23). New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  34. Merriam, S. B. (2001). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  35. Poole, D. M. (2000). Student participation in a discussion-oriented online course: A case study. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33(2), 162–177.Google Scholar
  36. Savin-Baden, M., & Gibbon, C. (2006). Online learning and problem-based learning: Complementary or colliding approaches? In M. Savin-Baden & K. Wilkie (Eds.), Problem-based learning online (pp. 126–139). Berkshire, England: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Schellens, T., Keer, H. V., & Valcke, M. (2005). The impact of role assignment on knowledge construction in asynchronous discussion groups. Small Group Research, 36(6), 704–745.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schellens, T., & Valcke, M. (2005). Collaborative learning in asynchronous discussion groups: What about the impact on cognitive processing? Computers in Human Behaviour, 21(6), 957–976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Voss, J. F. (1988). Learning and transfer in subject-matter learning: A problem solving model. International Journal of Educational Research, 11, 607–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Voss, J. F., & Post, T. A. (1988). On the solving of ill-structured problems. In M. H. Chi, R. Glaser, & M. J. Farr (Eds.), The nature of expertise (pp. 261–285). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  41. Wasko, M. M., & Faraj, S. (2000). It is what one does: Why people participate and help others in electronic communities of practice. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 9, 155–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhao, N., & McDougall, D. (2005). Cultural factors affecting Chinese students’ participation in asynchronous online learning. In G. Richards (Ed.), Proceedings of world conference on e-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, and higher education 2005 (pp. 2723–2729). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations