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5 - The Group as Paradigmatic Unit of Analysis: The Contested Relationship of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning to the Learning Sciences

from PART 1 - PAST

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2016

Gerry Stahl
Affiliation:
Drexel University
Michael A. Evans
Affiliation:
North Carolina State University
Martin J. Packer
Affiliation:
Universidad de los Andes, Colombia
R. Keith Sawyer
Affiliation:
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Summary

This chapter looks at the relationship of two historically and institutionally related research communities: Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) and the Learning Sciences (LS). It presents them from the perspective of the author as a participant in those communities during the past twenty years. It reviews the institutional history of their relationship within the International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS). The question is then posed: Do CSCL or LS represent a new paradigm of educational research? Trends in the history of philosophy and social theory are reviewed to motivate a contemporary paradigm. A post-cognitive educational paradigm is proposed that focuses on group interaction as the unit of analysis. Finally, the author's CSCL research agenda is described as an illustration of a candidate approach. In conclusion, it is proposed that CSCL research should focus on the analysis of group processes and practices, and that the analysis at this level should be considered foundational for LS.

A Participant's View of LS and CSCL

LS and CSCL are not easy to distinguish clearly. There are no objective or fixed definitions of these two fields. They are best understood as communities of researchers. Despite their fluidity, they do seem to evolve over time. The shifting nature of the communities appears differently to different participants and is often negotiated in discussions among them. In this chapter, I discuss the relationship between the CSCL and LS communities from the perspective of my own participation in them.

CSCL is post-disciplinary, requiring a mix of academic backgrounds. I came to CSCL from philosophy and computer science. In the 1960s and early 1970s, I studied twentieth-century continental philosophy and social theory at MIT, Northwestern, Heidelberg, and Frankfurt, but supported myself as a mathematics teacher and computer programmer. In the early 1990s, I studied computer science academically, specializing in artificial intelligence (AI), design theory, human–computer interaction (HCI), and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) at the University of Colorado in Boulder. On graduation in 1993, I decided to apply computer science to educational innovation. When Timothy Koschmann spent a year at Boulder during 1997/98 while I was starting my career as a research professor, I participated in his course on CSCL and he introduced me to local conversation analysts, whose courses I also attended. Koschmann was instrumental in organizing the first seven CSCL conferences and editing the seminal CSCL book (Koschmann, 1996).

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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