Omani undergraduate student reactions to collaborative knowledge building
Porcaro, David Scott
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While collaborative problem-solving has been suggested as a solution for linking classroom learning with workforce skills, it is still not entirely clear how personal, institutional and national factors work together to form student and teacher reactions. Oman provides an excellent case for exploring this intersection, as previously limited technology and an instructivist education tradition meet rapid educational and economic development. Employing an education design research methodology, I explored how students reacted to a course built around Brown and Campione's Fostering Communities of Learners (FCL), and utilizing a blog-based Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) tool called Future Learning Environments 4 (FLE4). The course was implemented over three semesters: I taught the first two semesters and then transferred the course to an Omani instructor for the third semester. Mixed methods were used to collect data related to the students’ reaction to the innovative pedagogy as well to the design and evaluation of the CSCL-based course. This dissertation utilizes a multiple-article format, consisting of four journal-ready manuscripts. The first manuscript describes the conceptual framework for introducing constructivist methods into an instructivist-based learning culture such as Oman. The second is a review of the published literature, outlining the application of CSCL and collaborative learning in the Arab Middle East, and Oman specifically. The relative lack of CSCL studies suggested that a design-based research study would fill a gap in the field, as well as provide a sustainable CSCL design for Omani higher education. The third manuscript is a report of student reactions over the course of the study, focusing on the Omani cultural elements that supported or hindered collaborative knowledge building in the course. The fourth manuscript provides an overview of lessons learned from the study, intended for a practitioner audience. It describes design principles that can be applied in similar learning contexts that may help facilitate CSCL adoption in other Arab nations. These principles include design considerations, teacher considerations, and technical considerations. All four manuscripts work to further our understanding of educational change in Oman, and document the efforts to link higher education with needed workforce skills.