Improving collaborative learning in the classroom: Text mining based grouping and representing

  • Melanie Erkens
  • Daniel Bodemer
  • H. Ulrich Hoppe


Orchestrating collaborative learning in the classroom involves tasks such as forming learning groups with heterogeneous knowledge and making learners aware of the knowledge differences. However, gathering information on which the formation of appropriate groups and the creation of graphical knowledge representations can be based is very effortful for teachers. Tools supporting cognitive group awareness provide such representations to guide students during their collaboration, but mainly rely on specifically created input. Our work is guided by the questions of how the analysis and visualization of cognitive information can be supported by automatic mechanisms (especially using text mining), and what effects a corresponding tool can achieve in the classroom. We systematically compared different methods to be used in a Grouping and Representing Tool (GRT), and evaluated the tool in an experimental field study. Latent Dirichlet Allocation proved successful in transforming the topics of texts into values as a basis for representing cognitive information graphically. The Vector Space Model with Euclidian distance based clustering proved to be particularly well suited for detecting text differences as a basis for group formation. The subsequent evaluation of the GRT with 54 high school students further confirmed the GRT’s impact on learning support: students who used the tool added twice as many concepts in an essay after discussing as those in the unsupported group. These results show the potential of the GRT to support both teachers and students.


Cognitive group awareness Collaboration script Group formation Text mining Latent dirichlet allocation Vector space model 



We thank the gymnasium of Pesch in Germany for the excellent cooperation.


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© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Duisburg-Essen (Media-Based Knowledge Construction)DuisburgGermany
  2. 2.University of Duisburg-Essen (Collaborative Learning in Intelligent Distributed Environments)DuisburgGermany

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