Instructional Science

, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 287–315 | Cite as

Knowledge convergence and collaborative learning

  • Heisawn JeongEmail author
  • Michelene T. H. Chi


This paper operationalized the notion of knowledge convergence and assessed quantitatively how much knowledge convergence occurred during collaborative learning. Knowledge convergence was defined as an increase in common knowledge where common knowledge referred to the knowledge that all collaborating partners had. Twenty pairs of college students collaborated to learn a science text about the human circulatory system. Comparisons of individual pre-test and post-test performance revealed that students shared more knowledge pieces and mental models after collaboration. Although the amount of convergence was modest, analyses showed that collaborative interaction was responsible for the increase in common knowledge. The increase in common knowledge was observed in knowledge that was never stated in the learning text as well as in knowledge that was explicitly presented in the text. The amount of convergence was related to interaction such that real pairs shared more knowledge than nominal pairs, and more interactive pairs shared more inferred knowledge than less interactive pairs. Collaborative dialogues and learning artifacts (e.g., drawings) also indicated that common knowledge was constructed during collaboration. Possible reasons for the discrepancy between the impression of strong convergence assumed in the literature and the results of this study are discussed along with the need to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the notion that includes its process, outcome, and sources of convergence.


Collaborative learning common knowledge knowledge convergence shared cognition text comprehension 


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Part of this research was funded by the National Science Foundation (BCS 9978462) and Hallym University Research Fund (HRF-2005-05) awarded to the first author. We thank David Klahr and Dick Moreland for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript and John Levine for letting us use his wonderful lab facility as well as for his comments. We also thank Alexandra Vincent with her help with the reliability coding.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHallym UniversityChunchonRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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