Productive failure in CSCL groups

Article

Abstract

This study was designed as a confirmatory study of work on productive failure (Kapur, Cognition and Instruction, 26(3), 379–424, 2008). N = 177, 11th-grade science students were randomly assigned to solve either well- or ill-structured problems in a computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environment without the provision of any external support structures or scaffolds. After group problem solving, all students individually solved well-structured problems followed by ill-structured problems. Compared to groups who solved well-structured problems, groups who solved ill-structured problems expectedly struggled with defining, analyzing, and solving the problems. However, despite failing in their collaborative problem-solving efforts, these students outperformed their counterparts from the well-structured condition on the individual near and far transfer measures subsequently, thereby confirming the productive failure hypothesis. Building on the previous study, additional analyses revealed that neither preexisting differences in prior knowledge nor the variation in group outcomes (quality of solutions produced) seemed to have had any significant effect on individual near and far transfer measures, lending support to the idea that it was the nature of the collaborative process that explained productive failure.

Keywords

Ill-structured problem solving Well-structured problem solving Synchronous collaboration Problem-solving failure 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research reported in this paper was funded in part by the Spencer Research Training Grant and the Education Policy Research Fellowship from Teachers College, Columbia University to the first author. The authors would like to thank the students, teachers, and principals of the participating schools for their support for this project. We are also grateful to David Hung, Donald J. Cunningham, Katerine Bielaczyc, Katherine Anderson, Liam Rourke, Michael Jacobson, Rebecca Mancy, Rogers Hall, Sarah Davis, Steven Zuiker, and John Voiklis for their insightful comments and suggestions.

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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Teachers CollegeColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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