Approaching institutional contexts: systemic versus dialogic research in CSCL

  • Hans Christian Arnseth
  • Sten Ludvigsen


The research literature in CSCL has rarely addressed the question of how institutional contexts contribute to constituting the meanings and functions of CSCL applications. The argument that we develop here concerns how the institutional context impacts the use of CSCL applications and how this impact should be conceptualized. In order to structure to our argument, we introduce a distinction between systemic and dialogic approaches to CSCL research. We develop our argument by working through a selection of relevant studies belonging to the two perspectives, and conclude that not enough attention has been given to the emergent characteristics of activities where CSCL tools have been introduced. This is particularly the case in studies belonging to a systemic approach. Our basic argument is that a dialogic stance can provide important insights into how institutional practices shape the meanings and functions of CSCL tools. A dialogic perspective provides opportunities for making sense of learning and knowledge construction at different levels of activity, while at the same time retaining sensitivity to the mutually constitutive relationship between levels.


CSCL Institutional practices Context Theory Methodology 


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Educational ResearchUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.IntermediaUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

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