Forms of regulation are a central issue in CSCL. Regulation can be supported by the computational tool itself, by the individual, or by social interaction (see Järvelä et al. 2016, for a recent overview). You Su, Yanyan Li, Hening Hu, and Carolyn P. Rosé explored self- and social-regulation of college students studying English as a Second Language (ESL) during wiki-supported collaborative reading activities. The 16-week study included 60 Chinese college students who worked in groups. While various forms of regulation have been studied in many domains in CSCL, less attention has been paid to regulation among students learning a second language. Most often, regulation has been conceptualized as self-regulation and the individual has been the unit of analysis. Su et al. take a different stance, advocating the need to study regulation processes using the inter-personal level as the starting point and focusing on the interdependency between individual action and social context. Recent regulation research has included analysis of self-regulation, co-regulation, and social regulation (Järvelä et al. 2016). Analysis on all three of these levels is also the aim of the Su et al. study.
The study’s empirical context is a wiki-environment in which the students engaged in “literature circles,” which are peer-led reading groups that aim to enhance students’ literacy skills. Each student is assigned a specific role in his or her group and was encouraged to share ideas, feelings, questions, connections, and judgements about the texts used.
The main source of content for the sequential analysis was data from the chat log. Su et al. used three different coding schemes for data analysis: coding for social intentionality; coding for processes, including planning, monitoring, regulating, and evaluating; and coding for emotions, task dimensions, and the organization of the activities. The results show that students are able to participate in groups and engage in social regulation, but that they struggle with content regulation. The high-performing group was able to participate in content regulation through cognitive activities, including checking, elaborating on, revising, and improving the responses of other group members. In the regulation literature, content regulation is viewed as the main indication of more advanced cognitive performance. The study confirms this finding in the area of second-language learning. The high-performing group had more advanced bidirectional patterns between different forms of regulation. The low-performing group used only self-regulation when working with the content. In addition, the high-performing group was able to regulate and change its action as part of organizing the activities, including monitoring the process and content, while the low-performing group was more repetitive in its actions and did not change its way of organizing its work. The results from this study extend previous CSCL research in this area and provide designers and teachers with new insight into how the environment can support students’ work and into the ways in which teachers may need to intervene in student groups to make sure that they engage in advanced cognitive activities (Furberg 2016).
In a second paper also focusing on regulation, the study by Marcela Borge, Yann Shiou Ong, and Carolyn P. Rosé provides new insights into the understanding of group regulation. In their paper, “Learning to monitor and regulate collective thinking processes,” they propose a framework to help students improve collaborative knowledge-building processes in small groups. This framework builds on two principles. The first is that the individual work that students do needs to become part of their collaborative work and to be synthesized as they develop shared meaning. This means that the students need to identify whether there are any substantial differences among them regarding how they solve a task. Many CSCL studies have shown that this is a serious challenge because cognitive differences and socio-emotional stress are identified as major elements in many collaborative efforts. The second principle is that the collective knowledge produced needs to be negotiated through communication processes. This study assumes that communication patterns will affect how participants involve themselves in the collaboration. Communication patterns activate specific forms of collaboration and cognition. While other studies have focused mostly on awareness and planning, Borge et al. focus on how regulation plays out in activities over time.
Thirty-seven university students who were taking an introductory class in information sciences and technology participated in this 16-week study. The design of the environment involved students’ use of rubrics to score how their group worked together. The rubric scores were also used in small-group discussions. Participants were grouped into two conditions: future-thinking and evidence-based. Students in the future-thinking condition were asked to score each micro-communication pattern and provide the group with a strategy to improve one aspect of the process in the next session. Students in the evidence-based condition were asked to score each micro-communication pattern and provide evidence from the session to support their own score. In other words, the future-thinking participants were asked to focus on improving their knowledge of socio-metacognitive strategies, and the evidence-based ones were asked to focus on the existing communication processes. These two conditions should be viewed as ways of scripting the students’ collaborative efforts.
The study’s results show that these scripts influence students’ collaborative efforts over time. The evidence-based conditions helped students to develop their capacity to see collaborative processes as products of their own thinking that can be improved upon. This improvement is dependent on socio-metacognitive sense making, and plays out as part of the regulatory processes. The study shows that more high-quality discussion took place in the groups using the evidence-based condition. Borge et al. emphasize that in this condition students had to pay attention to identify how group members differ in their contributions. This stimulated regulatory processes for themselves and for the entire group. So, similar to the other studies in this issue, this study corroborates the finding that the establishment and maintenance of common ground is a necessary condition for solving a problem collaboratively (Järvelä et al. 2016).