Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 64, Issue 1, pp 137–156 | Cite as

Re-appropriating a question/answer system to support dialectical constructivist learning activity

  • John M. CarrollEmail author
  • Yu Wu
  • Patrick C. Shih
  • Saijing Zheng
Development Article


Learning can be engaged by dialectic, that is, by identifying pros and cons that inhere in propositions, and more generally, by raising questions about the validity of claims. We report here on a classroom case study of dialectical constructivist pedagogy: Students created dialectical analyses of two lectures and four books as core activities in a freshman seminar “Information, People and Technology”. We adapted the functionality of Piazza, a free wiki-style question–answer course management infrastructure, and Toulmin argumentation structures to organize and facilitate these dialectical learning activities. In this paper, we motivate this approach, describe our implementation of it, and present interaction log data and content analysis of Piazza debates, and analysis of student self-reflections on learning activity and consequences, to assess issues in this approach, and directions for further instructional design and research.


Dialectical constructivism Critical thinking Scaffolding Piazza 



This work was supported in part by the Penn State Center for Online Innovation in Learning, by the NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium, and by Piazza Technologies. We are grateful to Diana Zhang who helped to develop course materials.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • John M. Carroll
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yu Wu
    • 1
  • Patrick C. Shih
    • 2
  • Saijing Zheng
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Human–Computer Interaction and College of Information Sciences and TechnologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Information and Library ScienceIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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