Students’ Collaboration Patterns in a Productive Failure Setting: An Epistemic Network Analysis of Contrasting Cases

  • Valentina NachtigallEmail author
  • Hanall Sung
Conference paper
Part of the Communications in Computer and Information Science book series (CCIS, volume 1112)


In this paper, we aim at uncovering collaborative problem-solving patterns associated with students’ successful learning of social sciences research methods in a Productive Failure (PF) setting. We report an epistemic network analysis (ENA) of PF students’ conversations. Conversations are compared between PF groups that generated high quality solution ideas (HQ groups) and groups that developed low quality solution ideas (LQ groups). The ENA results demonstrate significantly different patterns. The collaborative problem solving of four HQ triads in a PF setting is characterized by debates and elaborations related to canonical contents of the targeted learning concept. The collaborative problem solving of four LQ triads is featured by task-pursuance actions and elaborations related to the instructions and contents stated in the worksheet. We also compared the eight groups based on their learning outcome (i.e., performance on a knowledge test). The comparison of four groups with a high learning outcome and of four groups with a low learning outcome revealed similar ENA results as the comparison of the HQ and LQ groups. These findings offer empirical evidence for the often hypothesized but rarely supported notion of certain collaborative problem-solving processes being important for the effectiveness of PF. The potential relevance of the collaborative problem-solving patterns of HQ groups for learning in a PF setting is discussed in light of mechanisms hypothesized to underlie the PF effect.


Productive failure Collaborative learning Problem solving 



The data analyzed in this paper are part of a project that the first author conducted in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Nikol Rummel and Dr. Katja Serova at the Institute of Educational Research at Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB). We want to acknowledge their input and support with respect to, for instance, the study design. We also want to thank the Research School at RUB for funding a research stay at the Educational Psychology Department at University Wisconsin-Madison. The research stay allowed the first author to visit the lab of Prof. Dr. David W. Shaffer and made this joint publication possible. This work was funded in part by the National Science Foundation (DRL-1661036, DRL-1713110), the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The opinions, findings, and conclusions do not reflect the views of the funding agencies, cooperating institutions, or other individuals.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ruhr-University BochumBochumGermany
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA

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