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CONSIDER

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Swaroop Joshi
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Piaget's classic work on cognitive development showed that engaging learners in critical discussions with peers about ideas that are different than theirs leads to deep conceptual understanding. Implementing such an approach in college-level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) courses has some specific challenges: (a) Short meeting times and large class sizes; (b) Competitive nature of the courses and single answer questions on assignments and exams; and (c) Overall lack of collaborative learning culture where students are unsure of how to seek help and many faculty members tend to think that engaging in collaborative activities may affect content coverage; etc. Based on Piaget's theory, I have developed a highly innovative collaborative-learning approach that exploits specific affordances of web technologies to address these challenges. This approach, named CONSIDER, short for CONflicting Student Ideas Discussed Evaluated and Resolved, allows creation of small groups of students with different ideas about the topic in question, engages them in a highly-structured rounds-based discussion so that the group progresses at an equitable pace, and makes their submissions anonymous to others so that students can receive the comments without any preconceived notions they may have about the poster. While a number of researchers have explored approaches to collaborative-learning, a key difference with this work is that my focus is helping individual students develop their own understanding, whereas the focus of much of this other work is on developing students' team skills, effective communication abilities, and the like. While a discussion in CONSIDER is always among small groups of students, typically 4 students in each group, with each group consisting of students with distinct conceptions of the topic being discussed, the discussion may be organized as either a rounds-based discussion or a forum-based discussion. In a rounds-based discussion, the discussion takes place in a series of rounds, each of specified duration with each student in the group making exactly one post in each round; the student's post is not available to the other students in the group until the end of round; indeed, each student will be able to freely edit her post until the end of the round. The other possibility is to have the discussion organized in a forum-based manner where each student makes as many or as few posts as she chooses and each post becomes visible to all the students in the group as soon as it is made. In addition, the discussion may be either anonymous with the students in the group being known to the others in the group as simply S1, S2, etc., or they may know each other's identities. Since the default setting in the CONSIDER system is rounds-based and anonymous, I will use the term "CONSIDER-approach" to refer to this type of discussion. A platform independent responsive web application was developed to implement this approach and to compare it with the forum-based approach. This app was used in three offerings of two junior/senior level undergraduate Computer Science and Engineering courses at The Ohio State University, where one discussion was conducted using the forum-based approach and the other using the CONSIDER approach in each class. Students performance on the pre- and post-discussion question and participation of individual students was measured. In two of the studies, a significant difference was found in the discussion that used the CONSIDER approach, compared to the forum-based approach on both these measures: improvement in learning (Study 1: N=37, r=-.63, p<.05; Study 2: N=26, r=-.38, p<.05) and participation (Study 1: r=-.57, p<.05; Study 2: r=-.76, p<.05). In the third study, there was no significant effect on the post-activity scores (p=.37), and the participation in the two types of discussions did not differ significantly, either (r=-.20, p=.09). In an anonymous, optional post-activity survey, a majority of the students self reported that they found the rounds-based structure (55%) and anonymity (80%) to be helpful in their participation and learning.
Swaroop Joshi
added 7 research items
The flipped classroom is widely regarded as an excellent approach to exploit the affordances of digital and on-line technologies to actively engage students and improve learning. The traditional lectures "covering" course content are moved to on-line videos accessible to students before the class meetings, with the class meeting times being devoted mostly to discussion and application of the new ideas, and other active learning tasks. The expectation has been that this will make the courses much more effective and students will be able to achieve the intended course outcomes to a much greater extent than in the traditional classroom. But the results have been disappointing. Although students find the flipped classroom engaging, student achievement of course learning outcomes, as reported by most researchers who have used the approach, has been roughly the same as in traditional classes. How do we tailor the flipped classroom to achieve its full potential? That is the question our workin- progress attempts to address. The thesis underlying our approach, based on classic work in the area of how people learn, is that it is not enough to have students watch the on-line videos before the class meeting. They should also engage in serious, structured discussions with other students, and thoughtfully consider ideas that may conflict with their own understanding of the topic in question both in order to help them develop a deeper understanding of the topic and in order to highlight problem areas that need further elaboration by the instructor. We discuss the theoretical basis behind the work, provide some details of the prototype implementation of an on-line tool that enables such structured discussions, and describe our plans for using it in an undergraduate course on software engineering and for assessing the approach.
Conflict and cooperation would seem to be ideas that are diametrically opposed to each other. But, in fact, classic work by Piaget on how children and adults learn shows that when learners engage with peers in critical discussion of ideas concerning which they have different understandings, that contributes very effectively to learners developing deep understanding of the concepts involved. At the same time, getting students in undergraduate computing (or other technical/engineering) courses to engage with other students in thoughtful discussion of important concepts is very challenging. It can be especially difficult to get women students and students from other underrepresented groups to participate effectively in such discussions. In our work, we exploit the affordances of mobile and web technologies to address these challenges. Our approach not only helps address these challenges, it has a number of other important advantages over face-to-face discussions. We present the theoretical underpinnings of the approach, some details of our prototype implementation, preliminary results from the use of the prototype in a junior/senior level class on Software Engineering, and the design for the next version of our tool. We also discuss the possibilities and usefulness of applying this approach in a range of computing courses from traditional classrooms to MOOCs.
Collaborative learning is a key component of software engineering (SE) courses in most undergraduate computing curricula. Thus these courses include fairly intensive team projects, the intent being to ensure that not only do students develop an understanding of key software engineering concepts and practices, but also develop the skills needed to work effectively in large design and development teams. But there is a definite risk in collaborative learning in that there is a potential that individual learning gets lost in the focus on the team’s success in completing the project (s). While the team’s success is indeed the primary goal of an industrial SE team, ensuring individual learning is obviously an essential goal of SE courses. We have developed a novel approach that exploits the affordances of mobile and web technologies to help ensure that individual students in teams in SE courses develop a thorough understanding of the relevant concepts and practices while working on team projects, indeed, that the team contributes in an essential manner to the learning of each member of the team. We describe the learning theory underlying our approach, provide some details concerning the prototype implementation of a tool based on the approach, and describe how we are using it in an SE course in our program. Full-text: https://swaroop.netlify.app/publication/soundarajan-2015-collab-cooper/