To continue our work in exploring collaborative learning activities within Computer Science education, more recently we have been investigating how students feel about collaborative learning activities and their perceptions as to the purpose of those activities within their education. We have just had a paper accepted for next year’s SIGCSE conference on this topic. Interestingly, we found that student’s own perceptions of the purpose of the activity strongly influenced how they approached the activity and whether they felt additional stress or anxiety from having to participate collaboratively. Intuitively this makes sense, but it also corresponds to considerable research within achievement goal theory and self-regulated learning – where students are able to recognise that the purpose of the activity is to encourage their learning and to develop collaborative learning and communication skills, then they are more easily able to embrace the challenges that communication can introduce. Collaboration is more than simply commutation, though – it is about dealing with conflicts that can occur from the different approaches and processes that others apply, i.e. balancing self-regulation with group-regulation.
If students, however, retain a discipline- or task-achievement focus then this can cause additional stress and anxiety as the students are having to master these new metacognitive aspects along with the pressure of completing the task to a high standard – a significant overload.
We are also pleased to have had a proposal for a special session accepted at SIGCSE: we will be conducting an interactive discussion/workshop on collaborative learning, including aspects of structuring activities, and scaffolding sessional staff in their role. Looking forward to Denver!
K. Falkner, N. Falkner and R. Vivian, Collaborative Learning and Anxiety: A Phenomenographic Study of Collaborative Learning Activities. Accepted for the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE 2013), March, 2013.
K. Falkner and N. Falkner, Designing and Supporting Collaborative Learning Activities. Special Session. Accepted for the 44th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE 2013), March, 2013.