Toward a dialectic relation between the results in CSCL: Three critical methodological aspects of content analysis schemes



The research field of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) includes a large variety of approaches which present significant theoretical and methodological differences. This diversity complicates the articulation of the knowledge that is produced within this investigative framework. The paper addresses this problem from a dialectic view. We propose that the main reason for this problem is not the theoretical and methodological diversity itself, but rather the difficulty of situating one specific result within this diversity in a way that makes dialectic relations between results visible and mutual transformation of the approaches possible. In the present paper, we propose a set of indicators, applicable to content analysis approaches, aimed to facilitate this reciprocal positioning of the results in the field. These indicators come from what we term “critical methodological aspects”: those aspects of the methodological infrastructure that are directly related to theoretical positions. We consider three critical methodological aspects in content analysis schemes: the units of analysis, the relations to be established, and the dimensions of analysis. Indicators regarding these aspects are proposed and defined, and their use for facilitating dialectical relations between results is exemplified by means of the examination of five specific approaches.


CSCL Content analysis Critical methodological decisions Dialectics 



This study was supported by the “Departament d’Educació i Universitats de la Generalitat de Catalunya,” the European Social Fund, and the GRINTIE research group at the University of Barcelona. We are deeply grateful to the anonymous reviewers of the previous versions of this paper for their detailed and challenging feedback. Thanks also to Sanna Järvelä for her helpful comments.


  1. Arnseth, H. C., & Ludvigsen, S. (2006). Approaching institutional contexts: Systemic versus dialogic research in CSCL. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1, 167–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arvaja, M., Salovaara, H., Häkkinen, P., & Järvelä, S. (2007). Combining individual and group-level perspectives for studying collaborative knowledge construction in context. Learning and Instruction, 17, 448–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beers, P. J., Boshuizen, H. P. A., Kirschner, P. A., & Gijselaers, W. H. (2005). Computer support for knowledge construction in collaborative learning environments. Computers in Human Behavior, 21, 623–643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beers, P. J., Kirschner, P. A., Boshizen, H. P. A., & Gijselaers, W. H. (2007a). ICT-support for grounding in the classroom. Instructional Science, 35, 535–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beers, P. J., Boshuizen, H. P. A., Kirschner, P. A., & Gijselaers, W. H. (2007b). The analysis of negotiation of common ground in CSCL. Learning and Instruction, 17, 427–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Biggs, J. B., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO Taxonomy. New York: Academic.Google Scholar
  7. Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives—the classification of educational goals, handbook 1 cognitive domain. London: Longman Group.Google Scholar
  8. Chi, M. T. H. (1996). Constructing self-explanations and scaffolded explanations in tutoring. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 10, 33–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology. A once and future discipline. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Coll, C., Colomina, R., Onrubia, J., & Rochera, M. J. (1995). Actividad conjunta y habla: Una aproximación a los mecanismos de influencia educativa [Joint activity and speech: An approach to the mechanisms of educational influence]. In P. Fernández Berrocal, & M. A. Melero (Comps.), La interacción social en contextos educativos (pp. 193–326). Madrid: Siglo XXI.Google Scholar
  11. De Laat, M., Lally, V., Lipponen, L., & Simons, R.-J. (2007). Online teaching in networked learning communities: A multi-method approach to studying the role of the teacher. Instructional Science, 35, 257–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Smet, M., Van Keer, H., & Valcke, M. (2008). Blending asynchronous discussion groups and peer tutoring in higher education: An exploratory study of online peer tutoring behaviour. Computers & Education, 50, 207–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De Wever, B., Schellens, T., Valcke, M., & Van Keer, H. (2006). Content analysis schemes to analyze transcripts of online asynchronous discussion groups: A review. Computers & Education, 46, 6–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Wever, B., Van Keer, H., Schellens, T., & Valcke, M. (2007). Applying multilevel modelling to content analysis data: Methodological issues in the study of role assignment in asynchronous discussion groups. Learning and Instruction, 17, 436–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. Internet and Higher Education, 2(2–3), 87–105.Google Scholar
  16. Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 157–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gerbic, P., & Stacey, E. (2005). A purposive approach to content analysis: Designing analytical frameworks. Internet and Higher Education, 8, 45–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gunawardena, Ch 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 of Educational Computing Research, 17(4), 397–431.Google Scholar
  19. Häkkinen, P., & Järvelä, S. (2006). Sharing and constructing perspectives in web-based conferencing. Computers & Education, 47, 433–447.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ho, C.-H., & Swan, K. (2007). Evaluating online conversation in an asynchronous learning environment: An application of Grice’s cooperative principle. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Järvelä, S., & Häkkinen, P. (2002). Web-based cases in teaching and learning—the quality of discussions and a stage of perspective taking in asynchronous communication. Interactive Learning Environments, 10, 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Järvenoja, H., & Järvelä, S. (2009). Emotion control in collaborative learning situations: Do students regulate emotions evoked by social challenges? British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 463–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jeong, A., & Joung, S. (2007). Scaffolding collaborative argumentation in asynchronous discussions with message constraints and message labels. Computers & Education, 48, 427–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Krippendorff, K. (1980). Content analysis. An introduction to its methodology. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Lai, M., & Law, N. (2006). Peer scaffolding of knowledge building through collaborative groups with differential learning experiences. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35(2), 123–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Linell, P. (1998). Approaching dialogue. Talk, interaction and contexts in dialogical perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  27. Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2007). When to jump in: The role for the instructor in online discussion forums. Computers & Education, 49, 193–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Naidu, S., & Järvelä, S. (2006). Analysing CMC content for what? Computers & Education, 46, 96–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Pata, K., Sarapuu, T., & Lehtinen, E. (2005). Tutor scaffolding styles of dilemma solving in network-based role-play. Learning and Instruction, 15, 571–587.Google Scholar
  30. Puntambekar, S. (2006). Analysing collaborative interactions: Divergence, shared understanding and construction of knowledge. Computers & Education, 47, 332–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Redmond, P., & Lock, J. V. (2006). A flexible framework for online collaborative learning. Internet and Higher Education, 9, 267–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Resta, P. E., & Laferrière, T. (2007). Technology in support of collaborative learning. Educational Psychology Review, 19, 65–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rourke, L., & Anderson, T. (2004). Validity in quantitative content analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52, 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (1999). Assessing social presence in asynchronous text-based computer conferencing. Journal of Distance Education, 14(2), 50–71.Google Scholar
  35. Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. R., & Archer, W. (2001). Methodological issues in the content analysis of computer conference transcripts. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 12(1), 8–22.Google Scholar
  36. Salmon, G. (2000). A model for CMC in education and training. E-moderating. The key to teaching and learning online. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  37. Schellens, T., & Valcke, M. (2006). Fostering knowledge construction in university students through asynchronous discussion groups. Computers & Education, 46, 349–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schrire, S. (2004). Interaction and cognition in asynchronous computer conferencing. Instructional Science, 32, 475–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schrire, S. (2006). Knowledge building in asynchronous discussion groups: Going beyond quantitative analysis. Computers & Education, 46, 49–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sparatiu, A., Hartley, K., Schraw, G., Bendixen, L. D., & Quinn, L. F. (2007). The influence of the discussion leader procedure on the quality of arguments in online discussions. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 37(1), 83–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Stahl, G. (2005). Group cognition in computer-assisted collaborative learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 21, 79–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stahl, G., Koschmann, T., & Suthers, D. D. (2006). Computer-supported collaborative learning. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 409–425). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Stein, D. S., Wanstreet, C. E., Glazer, H. R., Engle, C. L., Harris, R. A., Johnston, S. M., et al. (2007). Creating shared understanding through chats in a community of inquiry. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 103–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Strijbos, J. W., & Stahl, G. (2007). Methodological issues in developing a multi-dimensional coding procedure for small-group chat communication. Learning and Instruction, 17, 394–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Strijbos, J. W., Martens, R. L., Prins, F. J., & Jochems, W. M. G. (2006). Content analysis: What are they talking about? Computers & Education, 46, 29–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Strijbos, J. W., Martens, R. L., Jochems, W. M. G., & Broers, N. J. (2007). The effect of functional roles on perceived group efficiency during computer-supported collaborative learning: A matter of triangulation. Computers in Human Behavior, 23, 353–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Suthers, D. D. (2006). Technology affordances for intersubjective meaning making: A research agenda for CSCL. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1, 315–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tolman, C. (1981). The metaphysic of relations in Klaus Riegel’s “Dialectics” of human development. Human Development, 24, 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Tseng, S.-C., & Tsai, C.-C. (2007). On-line peer assessment and the role of the peer feedback: A study of high school computer course. Computers & Education, 49, 1161–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Vaughan, N., & Garrison, D. R. (2005). Creating cognitive presence in a blended faculty development community. Internet and Higher Education, 8, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Veerman, A., & Veldhuis-Diermanse, E. (2001). Collaborative learning through computer-mediated communication in academic education. In P. Dillenbourg, A. Eurelings, & K. Hakkarainen (Eds.), European perspectives on computer-supported collaborative learning. Proceedings of the first European conference on CSCL (pp. 625–632). Maastricht: McLuhan Institute, University of Maastricht.Google Scholar
  52. Vygotsky, L. S. (1997). The historical meaning of the crisis on psychology: A methodological investigation. In R. W. Rieber & J. Wollock (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky. Volume 3. Problems of the theory and history of psychology (pp. 233–343). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  53. Weinberger, A., & Fischer, F. (2006). A framework to analyze argumentative knowledge construction in computer-supported collaborative learning. Computers & Education, 46, 71–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Weinberger, A., Fischer, F., & Stegmann, K. (2005). Computer-supported collaborative learning in higher education: Scripts for argumentative knowledge construction in distributed groups. Proceedings of the 2005 conference on computer support for collaborative learning (pp. 717–726).Google Scholar
  55. Wells, G. (1999). Dialogic inquiry: Towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. Internet and Higher Education, 10, 15–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Woodrum, E. (1984). “Mainstreaming” content analysis in social science: Methodological advantages, obstacles, and solutions. Social Science Research, 13, 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zemel, A., Xhafa, F., & Cakir, M. (2007). What’s in the mix? Combining coding and conversation analysis to investigate chat-based problem solving. Learning and Instruction, 17, 405–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zumbach, J., Reimann, P., & Koch, S. C. (2006). Monitoring students’ collaboration in computer-mediated collaborative problem-solving: Applied feedback approaches. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 35(4), 399–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Educational PsychologyUniversity of BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

Personalised recommendations