About my research

My research was set in the context of the European Commission’s eTwinning initiative and it looked specifically at the use of eTwinning Learning Events (non-formal learning). It examined how the community influences the development of teachers’ competence in online collaboration and discourse, and it considered the contribution of social aspects and online moderation.

I am very grateful to my supervisor, Dr. Julie-Ann Sime from Lancaster University, and to my eTwinning soulmate, Tiina Sarisalmi, for their invaluable support. And to my examiners, Prof. Marilyn Leask from the University of Bedfordshire and Dr. Don Passey from the University of Lancaster, for their valuable advice.
Keywords: online learning communities; community of inquiry; online collaboration; content analysis; social presence; social ties; teacher training

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Discourse analysis in a CoP

It was interesting to read in Thomson et al.'s paper (2009) how they had applied discourse analysis to a short term (seven weeks long) online community of practice, based upon the Interaction Analysis model of Gunawardena et al (1997). The workshop involved 20-40 participants, 3 facilitators, 4 mentors, 3 guest speakers and 3-4 researchers - a significant investment in support staff, even excluding the researchers (cf the 200 participants and 1 domain expert involved in the eTwinning Learning Event [LE] that I followed).

Main points that I noted from the paper:
  • Anecdotal evidence emerged of strong ties forming even in such a short term CoP. This matches my observations from the LE
  • Several discourse analysis models were examined and Gunawardena et al's model was chosen. That said, results showed that the model 'used alone, would not capture the full measure of messages posted' and the open ended and free-form dialogue observed in the CoP 'is less readily analysed by frameworks based upon goal orientated debate style interactions' (p.7).
  • Using several researchers to code data can lead to discrepancies in the way the data is coded, so called 'inter-rater reliability'. I won't have this problem!
  • The study of the dialogue in the forums misses the private chats and discussions that take place outside of the environment, yet the results show that such discussions are often referred to in the dialogue by the participants
  • The level of interaction by the participants gradually increased from the lower range, identified by Gunawardena et al, to the medium to high range. Yet the workshop leader's presence remained high (significant teaching presence). The proportion of participants playing the various roles (thought leader, mentor, facilitator, etc) remained largely constant despite the increase in the level of the dialogue
  • The follow-up survey of participants suggested that where there was more interaction there were triggers for more-in depth conversations and higher learning
  • The paper encourages further research in the analysis of discourse in online CoP, especially with larger samples. Good motivation to continue ....

Gunawardena, C., Lowe, C. & Anderson, T. (1997) 'Analysis of a global online debate and the development of an interaction analysis model for examining social construction of knowledge in computer conferencing'. Journal of educational computing research, 17 (4)

Rourke, L., Anderson, T., Garrison, D. & Archer, W. (2001) 'Methodological issues in the content analysis of computer conference transcripts', International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education (IJAIED), 12, pp.8-22. (ONLINE - http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00197319/ - accessed 18.07.2010)

Thomson, R., Reeves-Lipscombe, D., Stuckey, B. & Mentis, M. (2009) 'Discourse Analysis and Role Adoption in a Community of Practice'. (ONLINE - http://cpsquare.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/stuckey-etal-aera-discourse_analysis.pdf - accessed 11.07.2010)

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