Learning the physics of electricity: A qualitative analysis of collaborative processes involved in productive failure

  • Suneeta A. Pathak
  • Beaumie Kim
  • Michael J. Jacobson
  • Baohui Zhang
Article

Abstract

Earlier quantitative studies in computer-supported collaborative learning identified ‘Productive Failure’ (Kapur, Cognition and Instruction 26(3):379–424, 2008) as a phenomenon in which students experiencing relative failures in their initial problem-solving efforts subsequently performed better than others who were in a condition not involving an initial failure. In this qualitative study, we examine the problem-solving dynamics of two dyads: a Productive Failure (PF) dyad who initially received a low-structured activity and a Non-Productive Failure (N-PF) dyad who initially received a high-structured activity. Both dyads then received an identical high-structured problem-solving activity. This process was repeated using multiple sets of problems, and this paper will discuss two sets. Interactions of the two dyads were logged. Data for this study included video conversations of the dyads, screen captures of their use of a computer model, and their submitted answers. Results indicated that initial struggle and failed attempts provided an opportunity to the PF dyad to expand their observation space and thus engage deeply with the computer model. Over-scripting proved to be detrimental in creation of a mutual meaning-making space for the N-PF dyad. This paper suggests that the relative success of the PF dyad might be viewed in terms of induction of reflective reasoning practices.

Keywords

Collaboration Electricity Physics education Problem solving Productive failure Scientific inquiry 

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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.; Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suneeta A. Pathak
    • 1
  • Beaumie Kim
    • 1
  • Michael J. Jacobson
    • 2
  • Baohui Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Learning Sciences Laboratory, National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological University1, Nanyang walkSingapore
  2. 2.Centre for Research on Computer Supported Learning and CognitionThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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