Theory and Practice of Scripting CSCL - Perspectives of
Educational Psychology and Computer Science
Armin Weinberger1, Ingo Kollar1, Yannis Dimitriadis2, Kati Mäkitalo-
Siegl1,3, and Frank Fischer1
1Ludwig-Maximilans-Universität (LMU) München, Leopoldstr. 13, 80802 München,
Germany; 2University of Valladolid;,3formerly University of Jyväskylä
Abstract: Students can be motivated but still not be able to engage in specific cognitive
activities in computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments.
Students are often at loss of what to do or may dispose of procedural
knowledge on how to collaborate that is inappropriate for acquiring knowledge
individually through CSCL. Facilitating specific CSCL processes by providing
learners with computer-supported collaboration scripts is an approach well
investigated and feasible for CSCL. Implemented in CSCL environments,
computer-supported collaboration scripts specify, sequence, and distribute
roles and activities. Scripts are supposed to scaffold activities that students
could not yet engage in based on their procedural knowledge alone.
Continuously adapting scripts to learners’ needs and procedural knowledge is
one of the main challenges of this approach to realise effective CSCL. Efforts
to specify and formalise script components and mechanisms have led to an
integrative framework for computer scientists, educational scientists and
psychologists towards what constitutes computer-supported collaboration
scripts and contributed to a growing library of prototypical CSCL scripts.
Key words: collaboration script, computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL),
external script, internal script, scripting
Collaborative learning is a central component of many current theoretical
approaches to learning and instruction and is assumed to foster specific
learning processes and outcomes. Having the ownership of their learning
processes, collaborative learners are supposed to elaborate and share
knowledge with peers and thus acquire and become able to apply domain-
specific knowledge as well as attain soft outcomes, such as self-esteem,
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motivation, and social skills (Johnson & Johnson, 2002; Lave & Wenger,
1990; O’Donnell & King, 1999; Slavin, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978). However,
implementing effective collaborative learning into schools and universities
today is a challenging task. Imagine a university teacher giving an
introductory lecture to about 100 participants on some basic approaches of
educational psychology, such as attribution theories. Beyond the lecture
itself, in which the basic theories should be introduced, the lecturer wants the
students practicing to apply the psychological theories to single problem
cases collaboratively including additional literature in their work. Computers
can support collaborative learning through a number of communication and
representation tools, such as asynchronous discussion boards or wikis,
creating a virtual space for students to work on learning tasks together
(Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning - CSCL; Stahl, Koschmann, &
Suthers, 2006). Simply assigning a collaborative task and providing learners
with communication tools, however, may not suffice to establish effective
(computer-supported) collaborative learning. Instead, both teachers and
learners may require elaborate strategies to realise effective collaborative
Computer-supported collaboration scripts or CSCL scripts are an
approach to set up and facilitate effective collaborative learning. On a
macro-level, CSCL scripts can structure and link lectures, individual and
collaborative learning phases in face-to-face or in computer-mediated
environments. The university lecturer might design a script, for instance,
which times and distributes resources between the lecture and an online
environment. For instance, additional literature could be pointed out in the
lecture that is downloadable in an online platform accompanying the lecture.
After handing out specific reading assignments to individual learners, groups
of four could be formed. In these groups, learners could be assigned the task
to collaboratively analyse problem cases on the basis of the theoretical texts
they have read.
On a micro-level, CSCL scripts scaffold specific collaborative learning
processes and provide learners with more or less detailed instructions
concerning the types and sequence of different activities and roles they are
supposed to perform during collaboration (Kollar, Fischer, & Hesse, 2006).
Different from early approaches to scripting, CSCL scripts may be designed
in a flexible way to guide learners to communicate and share representations
of their knowledge. Besides supporting the implementation of scripts in a
specific learning environment, computers can also support the design and
adaptation of scripts to different learning environments. In the university
lecture example specific interaction patterns could be facilitated by assigning
different roles to the students, such as case analyst and constructive critics.
These roles in turn can be supported by sentence starters provided in
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 3
asynchronous discussion boards within the CSCL platform, such as “The
most important theoretical concepts that can be applied here are …” or
“What I did not understand was…” (see Weinberger, Ertl, Fischer, & Mandl,
For the remainder of this chapter, this scenario will be used as a joint
reference when synthesising recent theoretical, empirical and design-related
developments in educational psychology and computer science leading to the
specification and formalisation of CSCL scripts. In the following sections,
we will address how CSCL scripts can be designed to facilitate learners’
transition from other- to self-regulation and outline a vision for future
research and practice.
1. A SCRIPT THEORY OF COLLABORATIVE
An essential aspect of most forms of collaborative learning is that peers
are verbally negotiating with each other how to solve specific learning tasks
with the goal to individually acquire knowledge. Thereby, learners’
interaction processes are assumed to be related to cognitive processes of
learning in “spirals of reciprocity” (Salomon & Perkins, 1998). In
constructing explanations and arguments, learners outline and thereby
restructure their individual knowledge in a linear form. Reciprocally,
learners get to receive arguments from their peers, which may comprise
additional resources in solving a task and prompt learners to reply and
construct new (counter-) arguments. Learners who are able to fairly balance
arguments will thus individually acquire knowledge, which in turn enables
them to execute cognitive activities on a higher level (Schwarz, Neuman, &
1.1 Internal and External Scripts
Learners often have difficulties to engage in specific collaborative
learning activities and often come to inadequate conclusions on learning
tasks. Apparently, learners often construct and fail to recognise flawed
arguments. Possibly, learners lack procedural knowledge of how to construct
arguments and learn together. This procedural knowledge has been
conceptualised as participant-generated scripts (O’Donnell & Dansereau,
1992) or internal scripts (Kollar, Fischer, & Slotta, in press). From a
cognitive psychology perspective, scripts are understood as a particular type
of cognitive schemas: they are cognitive constructs that help individuals
understand dynamic events and act in meaningful ways in such dynamic
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events (Kolodner, 2007; Schank & Abelson, 1977). As these internal scripts
often appear to be fragmentary and even dysfunctional, collaborative
learning has been facilitated with experimenter-generated (O’Donnell &
Dansereau, 1992) or external scripts (Kollar et al., in press). This
instructional approach of external scripts aims to scaffold collaborative
learners and facilitate individual knowledge acquisition by specifying,
sequencing, and distributing roles and activities. Different from theatre
scripts, external collaboration scripts are to guide and not to determine
learners’ collaborative activities. In this way, external collaboration scripts
complement and potentially alter learners’ internal scripts. This is especially
desirable when scripts represent important strategies within a domain that
ultimately should be individually acquired by the learners. Goals of science
education may include, for instance, learning how to construct and analyse
sound arguments in a domain, how to review literature and critically reflect
hypotheses, or how to inquire hypotheses and interpret data. Research on
scripts that were aimed to facilitate the construction of single arguments and
argumentation sequences has shown to facilitate not only the specified
activities during the collaborative phase, but also facilitated the individual
acquisition of argumentative knowledge (see Stegmann, Weinberger, &
Fischer, in press). But not all scripts are to be internalised. Some scripts or
script components may rather regulate arduous functions that are not directly
connected to cognitive activities of learning, such as forming specific small
groups of learners or regulating turn taking within these small groups (e.g.,
An important design decision that needs to be made in the university
lecture example is, whether the script itself should induce a strategy that is to
be internalised or not. The university teacher may decide that the students of
the course should learn to construct sound arguments based on psychological
theories. To this end, learners’ messages could be denominated as arguments
or counterarguments and contain prompts suggesting learners to warrant and
qualify their claims.
1.2 Scripts and Observable Interaction Patterns
The basic rationale of the script perspective on collaborative learning
implies that students individually acquire knowledge by engaging in specific
activities related to learning. In consequence, script design depends
essentially on the designer’s theoretical model of what specific collaborative
learning activities and interaction patterns are related to individual
knowledge acquisition. In the perspective of what has been termed
argumentative knowledge construction, collaborative learners particularly
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 5
acquire knowledge individually when they construct sound, elaborate, and
well-interlinked arguments (Weinberger & Fischer, 2006).
Scripts are meant to facilitate individual knowledge construction mainly
through supporting these specific activities, but scripts are merely plans,
which are not necessarily realised in their entirety by learners. Especially
when several plans exist, the actual observable activities and interaction
patterns of learners may be dissimilar to any one script. Both, internal and
external scripts, as well as situational components co-determine the actually
observable interaction patterns. Although it has been shown that students
basically adhere to external script structures, some variance can be found
with respect to the degree to which external scripts regulate collaborative
learning activities (Weinberger, Stegmann, Fischer, & Mandl, 2007).
Especially over longer periods of time, external scripts may become
redundant or even dysfunctional when they are not dynamically adapted to
learners’ needs in the course of collaborative learning. This dynamic
adaptation could be realised by teachers who continuously monitored the
collaborative learning activities, by the learners themselves who could be left
to choose what kind of script support they could select or drop, or by
software that could propose scripts to teachers or learners based on
automatic analyses of learners’ interaction patterns (Dönmez, Rosé,
Stegmann, Weinberger, & Fischer, 2005).
There is yet little knowledge, how internal scripts may guide
collaborative learners and how learners converge or diverge with respect to
how they handle learning tasks together. Typically, students may not
explicate their internal scripts. One may assume that learners quickly
converge on a common style (e.g., through primacy effects) and participate
according to how motivation and competencies are distributed within the
small group of learners (Weinberger, Stegmann, & Fischer, 2007a). As little
is known on the interaction of internal scripts of different learning partners,
there is also little knowledge on how internal and external scripts interact in
qualitatively different ways. What is considered established knowledge is,
however, that the degree of regulation of external scripts should be adjusted
to the degree learners’ internal scripts are elaborated to self-regulate their
collaborative learning processes (Cohen, 1994).
With respect to the university lecture example, this leaves us with the
question how to adapt external scripts to learners’ internal scripts? After the
university lecturer analysed what kinds of internal scripts the students would
hold and how elaborated these internal scripts were, the lecturer could select
external scripts that regulate activities that the respective learners would
normally not engage in, such as constructing warranted claims. Based on
continuous analyses of learners’ arguments - possibly supported through
6 Chapter 12
automatic discourse analysis software (Dönmez et al., 2005) - the lecturer
could decide to gradually fade out the script.
1.3 Transition from other- to self-regulation
Early scripting approaches that had been formulated before computers
became ubiquitous learning tools aimed to facilitate collaborative learning
processes by instructing learners to engage in a specific sequence of
activities (O’Donnell & Dansereau, 1992). Some of these approaches
additionally provided learners with scaffolds, such as sentence starters or
prompts that learners are expected to respond to and complete when learning
together (King, 1999). Different from computer-supported scripts, these
early scripts were instructed prior to collaborative learning phases, mostly
regulated by teachers and represented in paper form or through verbal
instructions only. These early approaches often emphasised that the actual
goal of scripting collaboration was to help students become self-regulated
learners (e.g., King, 2007). At least in early stages the facilitation of self-
regulated learning therefore entails a certain degree of other-regulation (see
figure 1; Kollar & Fischer, 2007), which in later stages may be gradually
reduced or “faded out” (Pea, 2004). From a script perspective, the transition
from other- to self-regulation can be conceptualised as a gradual
internalisation of scripts - not including some external scripts that are not
meant to be internalised (see above). The goal of this internalisation is that
learners become more and more self-guided individuals with the ability to
solve problems by relying mostly on their internal resources. Also once
internalised, scripts are more effective, because they are more accessible and
a smaller load to working memory capacity than external scripts.
In a study conducted in an inquiry learning context, Kollar and
colleagues (in press; see also Kollar, 2006) have found that highly structured
external computer-supported scripts are indeed able to overlay the internal
scripts that learners bring to the collaborative learning situation. However,
once the external script was faded out and not available to the learners
anymore, the learners did not engage in the activities that were suggested by
the external scripts before, but mostly followed their original internal scripts.
Thus, there was no evidence for a strong internalisation of external script
components. However, the duration of the learning session was rather short.
Maybe over longer periods of time, internalisation of external scripts is more
likely to be observed. This however is subject to further examination.
Possibly, transition from other- to self-regulation can be realised with a
continuous fading out of external script components rather than an on-off-
switch of scripts. CSCL scripts may be more flexibly designed and capable
of being faded out in comparison to teacher-instructed scripts (Kobbe,
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 7
Weinberger, Dillenbourg, Harrer, & Fischer, in press). Additionally,
regulation of activities may be temporarily shifted from external scripts to
co-learners, who could continue to control the engagement in the formerly
scripted activities. An empirical study on fading out computer-supported
collaboration scripts in a university context produced promising results that
distributing meta-cognitive functions to co-learners as the script fades out is
a feasible way to facilitate the internalisation of scripts (Wecker & Fischer,
Figure 1: Transition from other- to self-regulation from a script perspective
The university lecturer of our example thus needs to decide on how to
support the transition from other- to self-regulation and successively fade out
the external script components. As there are indications that fading out in
terms of switching scripts on and off does not necessarily lead to learners
having internalised the scripts and continuing engaging into activities
suggested by the script (Kollar et al., in press), the lecturer might want to
motivate students to continue the scripted activities after the script
components are being faded out by having the learners mutually control the
continuous engagement in the specified activities and possibly also reward
engagement in the specific activities.
1.4 How do Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts
Computer-supported collaboration scripts seem to be an effective
approach to facilitate specific interaction patterns of computer-supported
ree of re
8 Chapter 12
collaborative learners (see Fischer, Kollar, Mandl, & Haake, 2007). External
scripts are, however, ill-defined in terms of how scripts unfold their effect on
collaborative learning. Reducing process losses and inducing specific
cognitive activities related to individual knowledge acquisition are two
major functions of scripts. Introducing computers to classrooms drew
attention to the fact that learning and instruction is not only distributed
between teachers and students. Cognitive functions may be also distributed
among the environment and the tools being used in the learning process. For
a first approximation, Kollar and colleagues (2006) have proposed to view
CSCL as an instantiation of a “person-plus-surround” system (Perkins,
1993). The basic assumption of such a systemic view on collaborating
groups is that cognition does not (only) happen in the individual minds of the
learners (the “person-solos”), but that the group as a whole including the
artefacts it is using participates in cognition (“person-plus-surround”). When
analysing a person-plus-surround system, a crucial question is what
component(s) execute metacognitive control such as goal setting or
performance monitoring (Perkins, 1993, calls this the “executive function”
within the person-plus-surround-system). The question whether students
need a script that helps them to perform a particular activity (and thereby
takes over the executive function for the system) thus depends heavily on the
extent to which the collaborators (or at least one of them) are capable of
effectively regulating the group processes themselves.
With respect to inducing activities related to individual knowledge
acquisition, scripts represent procedural knowledge learners do not have.
However, internal and external scripts do not simply add up so that learners
are enabled to engage in specific activities, accomplish the learning task, and
individually acquire knowledge. Internal and external scripts may interact in
qualitatively different ways that are yet to be investigated (see above). From
a scaffolding perspective, external scripts induce activities that learners
could not engage in without additional support. The scaffolds provided to the
learners do not make activities necessary to complete the task redundant, but
lead learners to engage in the activities relevant for individual knowledge
acquisition. From this perspective, it is important to limit scripts to take over
specific functions, but possibly not replace metacognitive activity relevant
for individual knowledge acquisition. If scripts relieve learners of vital
collaborative learning activities they might interfere with the social
dynamics of the group and even prevent learning in collaborative situations,
which has been termed over-scripting (Dillenbourg, 2002). Similarly, scripts
might provide too little help for some students or groups, which could be
called under-scripting. Therefore, there is a need for identifying an adequate
balance between internal and external scripts. One of the major issues in
scripting thus is how scripts can facilitate self-regulated learning and include
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 9
the actual human agents of learning and teaching processes in different
collaborative learning activities in authentic classroom contexts.
Scripts may also induce specific activities by altering learners’
expectations of what is going to happen in the collaborative phase. Learners
expecting to engage in specific activities, such as giving explanations, have
been found to acquire more knowledge individually than learners who do not
(Renkl, 1997). Making the collaborative scenario more transparent through
scripts may also alter the motivational configuration of the small group of
learners. Making transparent to the learners that all group members are
required to participate homogeneously, for instance, may reduce social
loafing and sucker effects (Kerr, 1983; Latané, Williams, & Harkins, 1979).
Scripts may also clarify how specific activities may eventually lead to
specific wanted results and thus increase learners’ motivation (Weinberger &
With respect to reducing process losses, scripts may be designed to take
over arduous tasks not directly related to individual knowledge acquisition
independent of learners’ capabilities. Students may be well capable, for
instance, of distributing responsibilities of sub-tasks or develop a schedule of
who is doing what at what time. Scripts may, however, take over these
organisational tasks and support learners to spend more time on the actual
learning activities. There are indications that increasing time on task is a
general effect of different types of scripts (Weinberger, Stegmann, Fischer,
& Mandl, 2007). Given that learners generally adhere to script prescriptions,
external scripts may reduce process losses also through harmonising
different internal scripts. As internal scripts can be considered as culturally
shared procedural knowledge, learners of one culture may carry similar
internal scripts. Collaborative learners from different cultures may, however,
particularly benefit from following external script prescriptions (Weinberger,
Häkkinen, Clark, Tamura, & Fischer, 2007).
With respect to the university lecture example, the script may be
designed to first make explicit to the students that they are expected to
construct arguments and thus acquire important argumentative knowledge.
The script may further contain a task schedule to reduce process losses and
facilitate the construction of arguments, e.g., by providing learners with an
interface in which messages are titles arguments, counterarguments and
syntheses by default (see Stegmann et al., in press).
10 Chapter 12
2. SPECIFICATION, FORMALISATION, DESIGN,
AND DEPLOYMENT OF CSCL SCRITPS
Much of the research on scripts has been accomplished in the context of
European CSCL research, in which the script approach has had a major
impact over the last few years (CSCL Alpine Rendez Vous, 2007; Fischer et
al., 2007). The CSCL context poses specific difficulties that scripts address,
e.g., learners being at loss of what to do in complex CSCL environments.
There are notions that unstructured, problem-based CSCL environments are
too demanding for learners to actually benefit from them more than from
traditional instruction (cf. Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006). Comparing
individual and collaborative learners supported or not by a script, it was
found that collaborative learners surpass individual learners only if they are
supported by a script (Weinberger, Stegmann, & Fischer, 2007b).
The script approach has been at the crossroads of several research and
development fields and has attracted special attention, especially in the e-
learning community, although some times under different terminology.
Approaches such as Educational Modelling Languages (EML) in
instructional design (Learning Technology Standards Observatory, 2007),
workflows in business processes (Vantroys, & Peter, 2003), or patterns and
visual languages (Botturi, & Stubbs, in press) share many ideas, trends and
proposals with the CSCL script approach (Vignollet, David, Ferraris, Martel,
& Lejeune, 2006). Such a confluence raises the need to take advantage of all
previous and current related work, merge these perspectives, and converge to
a stable and widely accepted solution for all stakeholders (researchers in
education, psychology and engineering, together with educational
practitioners, or even technology and service providers).
In the university example, the teacher faces the problem of how to put
into practice all the ideas for a script in a short term, without an excessive
effort taking into account limited time availability and experience in
technology enhanced environments. Thus, the teacher needs to consider the
widely adopted Learning Management System (LMS), which has a strong
support by the university administration, and an EML, which allows
expressing the main characteristics of the script. In addition, the script
should be easy to describe and design in common language based on
established knowledge or innovative approaches towards collaborative
2.1 Lifecycle and framework for CSCL scripts
Considerations such as the ones arising in the university lecture example
of specifying and designing scripts drive many current efforts, which aim to
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 11
provide scientific and technological support different phases of the lifecycle
of a CSCL script. The integrated framework proposed by the European
Research Team CoSSICLE (Computer-Supported Scripting of Interaction in
Collaborative Learning Environments; Kobbe et al., in press) allows
understanding and specification of components and mechanisms, i.e. the
elements and procedures that are necessary for study and research on CSCL
scripts. The formalisation of such a framework in computational terms opens
the path for the use of computer-based tools for modelling and design of the
scripts, while on the other hand it enables the interpretation and execution of
such scripts in CSCL environments.
Formal expressions in terms of a computational language disambiguate
the specified components and mechanisms. This is prerequisite to adapting
scripts in different learning environments, i.e. to avoid the proliferation of
ad-hoc implementations that are hardwired in a specific system. There is a
practical need for a specification and formalisation of scripts to provide
teachers and designers of collaborative learning environments with a script
toolbox, dynamically adapt scripts during phases of collaborative learning,
and make scripts transferable from one learning environment to another (see
(Script mechanisms and
Figure 2: Lifecycle and its technology support for CSCL scripts
University teachers may be supported by tools for the conception and
delivery of scripts in a general purpose LMS or a specific CSCL
environment. Besides the individual university teacher, instructional
designers may be more productive in the setup of similar environments,
creating a community of teachers who exchange and tailor scripts, data and
tools for their classes. It is then possible to expect a wider adoption of the
CSCL script approach, taking into account the needs of all stakeholders and
providing the appropriate support.
In the CoSSICLE framework, a stratified approach has been adopted to
specify scripts, differentiating between schemata and families. While
12 Chapter 12
schemata follow some general design principles, script classes are variations
of schemata prototypes that are adapted to the specific educational context,
i.e. to the extrinsic constraints, while they comply with the script intrinsic
constraints (Dillenbourg, & Tchounikine, 2007). Similarly to a pattern-based
approach (Hernández-Leo, 2007), this framework builds on existing
knowledge that is widely adopted by practitioners, while it is based on
extensive educational research. Its main advantage lies in the flexibility that
is provided to the practitioner or educational designer, since he can properly
instantiate schemata and families, and facilitate specific interaction patterns
that are best suited for specific scenarios.
Different script schemata have been identified (Dillenbourg, & Jermann,
2007) such as those that refer to jigsaw grouping and re-grouping learners
with complementary knowledge (Aronson, Blaney, Stephan, Sikes, & Snapp,
1978), conflict grouping learners of contradictory knowledge and roles (e.g.,
Weinberger et al., 2005), and reciprocal facilitating questioning and tutoring
activities (King, 2007). Similarly, collaborative learning flow patterns, such
as jigsaw, pyramid, think-pair-share, etc. have been detected and included in
the pattern oriented framework that supports similar levels of abstraction and
specialisation (Hernández-Leo, Harrer, Dodero, Asensio-Pérez, & Burgos,
Additional to general script schemata and more specialised script classes,
a structural decomposition is specified in the CoSSICLE framework, i.e. a
minimal number of elements that cover the needs of a CSCL script. While
scripts can be broken down to components, the dynamic and distributed
character is defined through mechanisms. With respect to components, roles
for example are supposed to facilitate specific collaborative learning
activities, e.g., question asking, explaining, or finding evidence (see King,
2007). On the other hand, participants in the activities may form groups (e.g.
expert and super groups in the jigsaw script class) and use computer and
network resources, which may be offered as services (e.g. a shared
workspace), although individual activities and non-ICT (Information and
Communications Technologies) resources are also considered. The dynamic
mechanisms that govern CSCL scripts include task distribution among
groups and roles, group formation and sequencing of activities. It is
noteworthy, that many instances of scripts classes can be described through a
small set of components and mechanisms. For example, the specific group
formation and rotation of roles are characteristic of the jigsaw script class
fostering homogeneous participation in complementary learning activities.
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 13
2.2 Languages and tools for modelling and deployment
The selection of a formal language for the representation of a CSCL
script is a crucial aspect, since this modelling language has to be sufficiently
expressive for collaborative situations as well as compliant to standards. The
general approach of EML, as e.g. IMS-LD (IMS, 2003), does not take into
account all specific characteristics of CSCL while it suffers various
deficiencies in terms of expressiveness (Caeiro-Rodríguez, Anido-Rifón, &
Llamas-Nistal, 2003). However, a de-facto standard supported by
international organisations motivates independent service providers to create
tools that support the whole lifecycle, and therefore promotes the creation of
sustainable technological solutions. Thus, an important dilemma has drawn
the attention of researchers and developers in this field, i.e. whether using a
proprietary language that allows for a richer, more precise and more efficient
formalisation of CSCL scripts, or adopting a standard but probably
insufficient language such as IMS-LD. Although a specialised language for
CSCL scripts may coexist, there is a clear trend and need for a solution
based on standards that may offer the option for gateways to specific
solutions, or paths for future enrichment. Then, there is a chance for a wider
adoption by the broad technology-enhanced learning community and
hopefully by the educational practitioners, in the direction of solutions based
on standards and open-source (Slotta, & Aleahmad, in press) in the general
Tools and computer-supported environments are the last elements that
have to be provided and considered with respect to the technological support
to the CSCL script lifecycle. For example, an editor is necessary for a
researcher, instructional designer or educational practitioner in order to be
able to define the components and mechanisms that formally describe a
CSCL script in a computational language. For instance, the Collage editor
(Hernández-Leo, et al, 2006) allows customisation and generation of
hierarchical combinations of collaborative learning flow patterns (script
classes), such as jigsaw or pyramid, represented in IMS-LD. An extensive
multi-case study (Hernández-Leo, 2007) has shown that educational
practitioners are able to successfully formulate their scripts in their specific
contexts. An additional element of the CSCL script toolbox points to a
simulator which allows designers to run their scripts in a simulated
environment and then be able to reformulate them for a more effective and
error-free implementation class environment (Harrer, 2006). Also, players
are necessary to interpret the CSCL scripts that were designed and modelled,
such as Coppercore for IMS-LD. Finally, computer architectures are useful
to embed CSCL scripts in existing computer-supported learning
environments, such as the Remote Control Approach (Harrer, Malzahn, &
14 Chapter 12
Roth, 2006) or to enable tailoring of CSCL scripts using available tools
offered as services, such as Gridcole (Bote-Lorenzo, et al., 2007).
In the university lecture example, the teacher may decide to use the
jigsaw script schema depending on the respective educational objectives.
Then, the basic script components and mechanisms employing the concepts
of the previously mentioned CSCL framework can be specified, as e.g.
define an activity for a final exchange of arguments between the members of
the supergroups that were formed beforehand by the teacher, using the
resource of an online argumentation forum integrated in a popular LMS. An
editor could then be used to formalise the script and produce a machine-
interpretable file, eventually in standard EML. Before the deployment of the
script, the teacher may detect any eventual problems and reflect on the
structure and performance of the script through the use of the simulator that
is available. Finally, an interpreter integrated in a general-purpose LMS may
bring the script in the class, with a possibility for a dynamic adaptation, as
well as an eventual fading out of the external script.
Notably, teachers may pose substantially different requirements then
researchers. While researchers may focus on studying adaptively fading
script components in and out depending on learners’ individual needs and
deficits, practitioners or administrators are more interested in effectively and
efficiently bringing these proposals in the real classroom with certain
guarantees for sustainability and scalability. A solution to this dilemma may
be of crucial importance that may drive the research and development
roadmap in this field.
3. DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK
When considering that collaborative learning is partly about adapting and
modifying learners’ internal scripts, external scripts may provide too little
appeal to being internalised. Instead, scripts focus learners on their specific
instructions. As a result and depending on the specific script type, learners
may, for instance, reply to script prompts rather than learning partners or
may disregard solving the task in favour of specific social activities or group
formation activities. Apparently, scripts need to be adapted to the individual
needs of the collaborative learners on multiple dimensions. Otherwise scripts
may be ignored in the best case, but could be expected to have harmful
effects in most cases (Mäkitalo, Weinberger, Häkkinen, Järvelä, & Fischer,
2005). Given modelling and design tools that support the deployment and
adaptation of scripts, analysing learners’ internal scripts and adapting
external scripts accordingly or making scripts adaptive seems to be a feasible
approach to this problem. Script components could be faded in or out
12. Computer-Supported Collaboration Scripts 15
according to the identified learners’ needs or its actual effects on the
collaborative process. Then again, scripts are entire procedures and may
loose their actual instructional meaning when being technically described
and broken up into single components.
One of the challenging issues in instructional design of CSCL scripts is to
better integrate scripts into wider social planes such as overall classroom
activities. Regardless of the technical learning platform applied - if any - the
specification and formalisation of scripts can augment the use of scripts in
the classroom. Technical descriptions of scripts realised with specific script
modelling tools can not only preserve and convey the underlying educational
principles of scripts, but also facilitate teachers to realise and orchestrate
scripts of different granularities within their classroom. This includes, for
instance, orchestration of individual and collaborative learning phases as
well as identification of the role of the teacher within a wider classroom
However, it seems that there are several limitations in the use of scripts in
authentic classroom contexts that lay out steps for future educational
research. On one hand, scripts do not take into account learners’ already
existing scripts and scripts might capture learners’ attention differently than
it is expected. On the other hand, scripts can neither predict students’
changing individual nor group needs. In order to offer meaningful support on
time it is important to track the real-time processes so that scripts can fade in
or out if necessary. A promising approach is to analyse processes in real-
time. Tools for automatic analysis of natural discourse corpora offer a
promising approach to this problem (Dönmez et al., 2005). Additionally,
longer-term follow up studies in research on collaboration scripts can
identify how fading scripts can facilitate students to become self-regulated
With a few notable exceptions, the social and emotional aspects of
collaboration have attracted less attention than its cognitive features (Crook
2000). However, there are many studies arguing that a sense of community
and an open and sensitive atmosphere are necessary preconditions of
collaborative learning (Cutler 1995; De Jong, Kollöffel, Van der Meijden,
Kleine Staarman, & Janssen, 2005; Rourke & Anderson 2002; Rovai 2000;
Wellman 1999). A strong mood of group togetherness can enhance the flow
of information, the availability of support, commitment to group goals, and
satisfaction with group efforts (Wellman 1999). De Jong and his colleagues
(2005) consider that in order to establish and maintain a secure and
collaborative atmosphere, learners should give precise expression not only to
ideas and knowledge but also to social and affective propositions. Scripts
can be seen as situational and contextual resources in learning environments
(Häkkinen & Mäkitalo-Siegl, 2007) that can affect learners’ motivation.
16 Chapter 12
Therefore, research on learners’ goals when using scripts might help us to
understand in what ways scripts can also affect student’s and group’s goals
and whether scripts can contribute to changing these goals in addition to
changing internal scripts and knowledge.
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