Gender and Discourse Styles in CMC Learning Groups

Gender and Discourse Styles in CMC Learning Groups

Yong-Kwan Lim (National University of Singapore, Republic of Singapore) and John Lim (National University of Singapore, Republic of Singapore)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-815-4.ch059
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The evolution of computer-mediated communication (CMC) technologies has brought about changes in the landscape of education. This availability of technologies corresponds with the educational paradigms that are shifting towards the collaborative constructive conceptions of learning (Anderson & Garrison, 1998). To support interaction and cooperative learning among learners, online discussion groups are increasingly being incorporated into the courses of educational institutions. Educators have deemed interaction as a vital component of collaborative learning (Sutton, 2001), and have provided an important framework comprising four types of interaction: learner-content, learner-instructor, learner-interface, and learner-learner (Hillman, Willis, & Gunawardena, 1994; Moore, 1989). Multiple studies have demonstrated interaction as a critical indicator of positive attitudes towards learning, higher achievement and increased motivation (e.g., Garrison, 1990; Fulford & Zhang, 1993). If successfully implemented, groupware technologies could support group activities by providing an environment that enables more effective and efficient group communication (Benbunan-Fich & Hiltz, 1999). Benefits associated with collaborative online learning include the availability of time lag which enables learners to reflect on their own perspectives and the opportunity to promote co-construction of knowledge among peers (Bullen, 1998). In order to facilitate effective construction of knowledge and interaction among learners using the CMC medium, it is critically important for researchers to understand what external factors would influence the interaction styles. In this regard, the current paper takes special note that the study of variations in gender discourse is an important area of research (Gunn, Mcsporran, Macleod, & French, 2003). To date, there has been a growing body of literature which examines the effects of gender on communication styles within an online learning environment. However, the results have been somewhat ambiguous and equivocal across the studies (e.g., Fahy, 2002; Savicki, Kelly, & Lingenfelter, 1996a), suggesting that the binary concept pertaining to gender may not be a useful basis for analysis of communication patterns among learners. The purpose of this article is to discuss the communication styles of gender and propose a framework which seeks to identify contextual factors that would moderate gender interaction patterns within online learning groups.

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