Prospectus for Collaborative Research Involving
the Center for Lifelong Learning and Design and
the Problem-Based Learning Initiative
draft by Tim Koschmann and Gerry Stahl and Howard Barrows
This is a working paper written to stimulate
discussion on the possibilities for initiating a collaboration involving the Center for
Lifelong Learning and Design (L3D) at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the
Problem-Based Learning Initiative PBLI) at the Southern Illinois University. The document
will begin with a description of each of these organizations (Sections 1 and 2). It will
then present a set of shared research goals (Section 3) and will conclude with a plan for
realizing these goals (Section 4).
1. The Center for Lifelong Learning and Design
An interdisciplinary center housed under the Department of Computer Science and the
Institute for Cognitive Science, L3D is concerned with how learning can be supported with
computer technology. Learning is here taken as a life-long endeavor including both formal
education (K-12, college, graduate school, professional training) and learning on-the-job
or through life experience. Design tasks are taken as paradigmatic learning situations, in
which specifying the problem or goal under open-ended conditions is a central part of
solving the problem; while there may be better solutions, there is often no final or
privileged solution. Another situation of central interest at L3D is group learning, particularly web-based communication
among people who are distributed in space and time.
At L3D, research into support for learning is conducted through a
combination of theory construction, software prototype development and in situ assessment.
Accordingly, L3D projects are concerned with issues of learning cognition
(particularly collaborative and organizational learning) and the social context and
practices of learning. They are also concerned with technical issues of designing software
support tools that provide appropriate communication media among learners and between
learners and their computer tools. Finally, they are concerned with issues of assessment
of high-functionality tools used in complex social settings.
2. The Problem-Based Learning Initiative
3. Joint Research Goals
In this section we will attempt to lay out some of research questions that drive this
collaborative effort. The collaboration between these two organizations is by its very
nature interdisciplinary. To facilitate discussion about research goals, we will divide
the questions into four, roughly disciplinary categories: cognitive, social science,
pedagogical, and technology-related.
3.1 Cognitive Research (theories of learning).
|Learners' (and teacher) beliefs about knowledge & learning (i.e., differences in
learner epistemologies [Alexander et al., 1998]. Where does it occur? How do you know it
has happened? ) |
|Issues related to Cognitive Flexibility Theory |
|Motivation and self-regulated learning by individuals (Pintrich & Schrauben, 1992;
Boekaerts, 1996) and groups (Lave & Wenger). |
|The nature of collaborative / group / social cognition.|
3.2 Social Science Research (theories of practice [c.f. Bourdeiu, 1990]).
|Continuation of microanalytic studies of how people do PBL (i.e. How are learning
deficiencies recognized? How are theories occasioned?) |
|Learner strategies (i.e., How is time outside of meetings organized [Csikszentmihalyi
'beeper studies'?]? What are learners actually trying to do? [Holt, Eckert] What learning
resources are used?) |
|How does collaborative learning take place? What social practices facilitate it?|
3.3 Pedagogically-Related Research (methodology/teaching theory).
|Design of distance-PBL (organization of activities, composition of groups, required
tutor/coach skills, "knowledge-building communities" [Scardamalia and Bereiter,
1996] vs. development of skills for lifelong learning) |
|Curriculum/content (need for integration across disciplines, conflicts with standards
and accountability) |
|Assessment issues (assessment in collaborative settings, development of self-assessment
skills, assessment in the ZPD)|
3.4 Technology-Related Research.
|How to design analogs for the F2F meeting (e.g., the "boards", the PBLM) |
|How to support individual and group research (e.g., organizing the results of literature
searches on the web using perspectives [Stahl, 1998a]). |
|How to support organizational learning (e.g., archiving ideas generated during the
research and problem-solving discussion phases [Stahl, 1998b]).|
4. Tentative Research Plan
This plan is for a three year staged project. The approach builds on existing expertise
at the partner institutions, namely face-to-face learning by medical students and web
tools for support of discussion and organizational memory for people who work and learn
together. It gradually extends the teaching methods and technological support until it can
be used by geographically distributed high school students learning science. Each year of
the project focuses on a different set of users:
Year I: The paper-based PBL curriculum will be extended with computer support and will
be field tested using groups of medical students at SUI who are already accustomed to the
PBL approach. Computer support will not only put the curricular materials on-line, but
will provide tools for discussing the materials outside of class, for organizing
information found during research phases and for retaining and browsing all materials
collected by the group. Learning practices such as group discussions will be modified to
take full advantage of the computer support. Careful evaluation will be conducted to
measure the effects of the computer support as compared to control groups.
Year II: The project will be extended in two directions:
- Distributed learning: groups of medical students will participate in PBL modules in
which they never meet physically. All interaction will be conducted through the web tools.
- High school: a couple of high school classrooms will study life sciences using a
specially modified PBL curriculum and the tools from Year I. The students will meet
face-to-face to do problem solving, as well as conducting web research individually.
Year III: Two courses in the life sciences will be offered over the web for high school
students in Illinois and Colorado. Individual students from distributed schools will
enroll, with the participation of their local science teacher. All materials will be
distributed on the web and all participation will take place via web-based tools.
Participating high schools will be selected to provide a diversity of experiences for
evaluation, from privileged, resource-rich schools to disadvantaged schools.
Alexander, P., Murphy, P.K., Guan, J., & Murphy, P. (1998). How students and
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Koschmann, T. (in press). Tools of termlessness: Technology, educational reform, and
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Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Lave, J. & Wenger, () Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation.
Pintrich, P.R. & Schrauben, B. (1992). Students' motivational beliefs and their
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Stahl, G. (1998a) Learning Perspectives. Submitted to ICLS98.
Stahl, G. (1998b) Collaborative Information Environments for LifeLong Learning in
Communities. Presented at DCSCW98.