Distributed leadership in online groups



We conducted research within a program serving future mathematics and science teachers. Groups of teachers worked primarily online in an asynchronous discussion environment on a 6-week task in which they applied learning-science ideas acquired from an educational psychology course to design interdisciplinary instructional units. We employed an adapted coding system to determine that group leadership was highly distributed among participants. We illustrated that leadership emerged through different forms of participation described in this paper and that, in some cases, individuals specialized in specific leadership roles within groups. Findings helped validate the theoretical concept of group cognition and led us to suggest an approach to online asynchronous learning for college students that depends more on students’ emergent leadership skills than on prescriptive assignment or scripting of participant roles.


Group cognition Leadership Online collaboration Problem-based learning 



This material was partly supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0107032 (ROLE).

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the American Research Association.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Wisconsin, MadisonMadisonUSA

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