Successfully carrying out complex learning tasks through guiding teams’ qualitative and quantitative reasoning

Bert Slof, Gijsbert Erkens, Paul A. Kirschner, Jeroen Janssen, Jos Jaspers

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    This study investigated whether and how scripting learners’ use of representational tools in a Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL)-environment fostered their collaborative performance on a complex business-economics task. Scripting the problem-solving process sequenced and made its phase-related part-task demands explicit, namely defining the problem and proposing multiple solutions, followed by determining suitability of the solutions and coming to a definitive problem solution. Two tools facilitated construction of causal or mathematical domain representations. Each was suited for carrying out the part-task demands of one specific problem-solving phase; the causal was matched to problem-solution phase and the mathematical (in the form of a simulation) to the solution-evaluation phase. Teams of learners (N = 34, Mean age = 15.7) in four experimental conditions carried out the part-tasks in a predefined order, but differed in the representational tool/tools they received during the collaborative problem-solving process. The tools were matched, partly matched or mismatched to the part-task demands. Teams in the causal-only (n = 9) and simulation-only (n = 9) conditions received either a causal or a simulation tool and were, thus, supported in only one of the two part-tasks. Teams in the simulation-causal condition (n = 9) received both tools, but in an order that was mismatched to the part-task demands. Teams in the causal-simulation condition (n = 7) received both tools in an order that matched the part-task demands of the problem phases. Results revealed that teams receiving part-task congruent tools constructed more task-appropriate representations and had more elaborated discussions about the domain. As a consequence, those teams performed better on the complex learning-task.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)623-643
    Number of pages21
    JournalInstructional Science
    Publication statusPublished - May 2012


    • complex learning-tasks
    • computer-supported collaborative learning
    • qualitative and quantitative representations
    • representational scripting
    • learner interaction
    • CSCL


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