Student interactions during asynchronous problem solving in college algebra using a communication tensor
Cooper, Thomas Edmond
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The goal of this study was to investigate the quality and nature of the students’ interactions and the students’ perceptions of factors influencing their participation and interactions in two sections of College Algebra that I taught using two approaches to asynchronous collaboration. Both sections were facilitated with a tool known as a communication tensor, which allows students to see (or not) each other’s work on each assignment. In a shared-work section, students worked individually on assignments for a designated time, at which point each student’s work was shared via the communication tensor. Each student in the shared-work section was responsible for constructing his or her own answers. The other section used a small-groups approach, working together in groups of three to four students on the assignments. To address the nature of the interactions, I used the archived student work to adapt a coding scheme by Stacey and Gooding (1998) to fit the asynchronous setting. A common form of interaction identified by the scheme was when a student posted a proposed solution after viewing a classmate’s work. For such responses, I developed a refined coding scheme to determine whether a student used classmates’ work, the level of individual contribution, and the relative correctness of the solutions. In both sections, the most common behavior was students working independently and using classmates’ work to compare answers or get assistance, but the small-groups section displayed a higher level of participation and interaction, including traditional forms of interaction such as asking questions and responding to group members. To investigate student perceptions of factors influencing participation and interactions, I used a series of open-ended surveys and student interviews. Student responses indicated a wide range of factors including problems accessing or using technology, the difficulty of the assignments, the asynchronous format, situational factors such as busy schedules, and dispositional factors such as a strong preference for paper-and-pencil work.