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Supporting Socially Shared Strategic Processing in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL)

Technologically supported environments provide a unique opportunity to both host and support socially shared strategic processing. In this section, we highlight just a small fraction of the wide range of research emerging in this area (e.g., Alharbi, Athauda, & Chiong, 2018; Hadwin et al., 2010; Miller & Hadwin, 2015; Winne, 2015).

Miller and Hadwin (2015) provided a conceptual analysis of the qualities of self-, co- and shared regulation in collaborative activity. Building from that analysis, they identified the potential benefits of two kinds of tools that are being built into CSCL environments: scripting tools, which structure and guide learners’ engagement in socially shared strategic action, and awareness tools, which “collect, aggregate, and reflect information back to learners to facilitate collaboration” (p. 573). Using examples from a first year undergraduate course, they illustrated how different kinds of tools can support effective forms of collaborative activity. In terms of the pedagogical principles and practices in Table 5.1, notable is how the tools they described create the potential to bridge from guiding learners’ engagement through cycles of socially shared regulation (e.g., using scripts) toward fostering more ownership over collaborative reflection, self and shared group assessment, and adjusting (e.g., using awareness tools).

Other researchers are also working to extend from the guiding potential of CSCL to fostering rich forms of learning, agency, and ownership (e.g., Hadwin et al., 2010). For example, Staarman (2009) sought to surface the implicit linguistic and social ground rules for participation in an online discussion forum with primary students. To that end, she negotiated ground rules with students. Consistent with recommendations from the SRL literature to make visible “how things work” in classrooms, this study suggested how social forms of engagement often remain implicit, and how negotiating an understanding of ground rules can help in supporting diverse learners in having a sense both of purpose and of how to achieve expectations.

As a final example, Hickey et al. (2002) developed an approach to assessing collaborative scientific inquiry in genetics within a technologically supported learning environment. Consistent with recommendations in the FA literature (e.g., Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006), their goal was to help students engage in effective “assessment conversations” (p. 2). They started by building a rubric for assessing collaborative activity, then assessed students’ collaboration in groups using the rubric. Finally, they asked groups to review their assessment together. They found that asking students to interpret their assessment together inspired “spirited discourse and argumentation around both the performance assessment and collaboration standards” (p. 7). As they negotiated a shared meaning about their assessment, learners co-constructed a fuller understanding about collaborative inquiry processes. Further, all students, including those who had not been actively engaged in the original collaborative work, negotiated meaning about the problem they had been addressing. The result was that all students learned more about the problem too. In this respect, Hickey et al.’s (2002) study showed how engaging students in FA practices can nurture both socially shared strategic processes and learning.

Supporting Socially Shared Strategic Processing in Open-Ended Collaborative Activities

Given contemporary demands to nurture the development of learners who know how to work well with others, a variety of other kinds of open-ended pedagogical frameworks are being revitalized, developed, and championed. These include, for example, collaborative forms of project-based learning (PBL) (e.g., Alharbi et al., 2018; Kim & Lim, 2018; Lee et al., 2015; Torre et al., 2016), design-based learning (DBL) (e.g., Boix-Mansilla & Gardner, 2007; Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999), and collaborative inquiry (e.g., Hickey et al., 2002). These open-ended frameworks engage learners in authentic forms of goal-directed activity, involve collaboration, and require learners to engage together in cycles of intentional, deliberate action (i.e., forms of self-, co- and socially shared regulation).

Current literature on these open-ended forms of engagement echoes themes we have identified so far throughout this chapter. These include the ubiquitous call to explicitly support learners to learn how to engage successfully together through these activities. But in more open-ended activities, researchers are grappling with how to dovetail scaffolds for collaboration (e.g., guides or tools) with demands for flexible, dynamic, and learner directed and derived forms of engagement (e.g., Alharbi et al., 2018; Lee et al., 2015). For example, in collaborative PBL in K-12 classrooms, Ert-mer and Simons (2006) suggested scaffolding learning processes in ways that guide learners rather than telling them what to do. They also made distinctions between hard scaffolds, like handouts, which can be prepared in advance and guide learning in a structured way, and soft scaffolds, which are more dynamic (like conferencing) and can be used to support learning as it unfolds. Ertmer and Simons also suggested introducing shorter versions of PBL first, before introducing a more extended project, developing rituals (i.e., routines) for thinking and learning, whole class debriefings on group processes, incorporating tools that enable students to record group goals and how things are progressing, and scaffolding supports for reflective thinking. Like the combination of scripting and self-awareness tools described by Miller and Hadwin (2015), the various strategies suggested by Ertmer and Simons have great potential to both guide learning and then bridge toward fostering agency and independence.

In their study on PBL, Lee et al. (2015) explored how individual and group level social skills were implicated in generating and resolving intragroup conflict (i.e., linking to the social dimensions of strategic processing in collaboration). As a backdrop to their study, Lee et al. (2015) suggested that the kinds of scripts being used in CSCL can be useful but may be limited given the dynamic forms of engagement required in collaborative PBL. Thus, as an alternative, they argued that students need to develop social skills (i.e., aligned with social-emotional competencies) that they can draw on flexibly and adaptively in social forms of engagement. They found that social skills enacted at the group level were most supportive of successful collaboration. Their findings resonate with the principles and practices included in Table 5.1, which suggest coupling explicit support for competency development (i.e., social-emotional competencies) with opportunities for learners to mobilize, reflect on, and adjust what they are learning within activities. This combination can help them learn how to navigate shifting expectations in different settings over time.

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