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Title:Collaborative problem solving in higher education classrooms: Exploring student interactions, group progress, and the role of the teacher
Author(s):Shehab, Saadeddine S.
Director of Research:Mercier, Emma
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Mercier, Emma
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lindgren, Robb; Hug, Barbara; Krist, Stina; D'Angelo, Cynthia
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Curriculum and Instruction
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Collaborative Problem Solving
Students' Interactions
Group Progress
Teaching Assistants
Abstract:The present study explored the types and quality of the collaborative problem solving interactions of 14 small groups of undergraduate engineering students in four face-to-face classrooms as they solved an authentic engineering task. The study also examined the groups’ progress on the task and the strategies that the teaching and course assistants implemented to orchestrate the groups’ activity in these classrooms. Video data from the four classrooms was collected and analyzed. Findings from the analysis of students’ interactions did not indicate high quality collaborative interactions in groups. Findings also indicated that higher group progress was associated with more collaborative problem solving turns where students were less engaged in mentioning new ideas and rejecting ideas, more engaged in rich explanations and justifications of processes and concepts, and more engaged in monitoring individual understanding or group performance on the task. Possibilities to improve the quality of collaborative interactions in groups were explored and discussed. Findings from the analysis of the teachers’ strategies indicated that the teaching assistants did not implement framing strategies that aim at prompting students’ collaboration at the beginning of the collaborative problem solving activity. They also did not reflect on students’ collaboration at the end of the activity. During the activity, the teachers did not monitor the groups’ activity and were focused on providing the groups with task-related support. Task-related support had negative impact on the quality of students’ interactions when teachers provided students with elaborated answers or problem solving procedures. Task-related support had a positive impact on the quality of students’ interactions when teachers answered students’ clarification questions or probed students’ understanding until they figured out their next step. Not implementing collaboration-related support and implementing task-related support that had negative impact on the quality of students’ interactions may have in part contributed to the low-quality collaborative interactions in the groups which in turn may have negatively influenced group progress. Future directions for supporting teaching and course assistants in orchestrating collaborative problem solving activities in higher education classrooms were discussed.
Issue Date:2019-07-08
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Saadeddine Shehab
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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