Assessing the Performance of Learners Engaged in Computer-Supported Collaborative Problem-Solving Activities

Assessing the Performance of Learners Engaged in Computer-Supported Collaborative Problem-Solving Activities

Symeon Retalis (University of Piraeus, Greece), Ourania Petropoulou (University of Piraeus, Greece), and Georgia Lazakidou (University of Piraeus, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-898-8.ch014
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Teachers often utilise a Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) strategy to teach a concept, a method, a problem, and so forth. Following guidelines from a script (based on a CSCL strategy), they must ultimately assess their students’ performance during their engagement in various learning activities; however, content and process assessments differ from script to script. Thus, a teacher faces a serious problem during content and process assessment. Here, the authors present a holistic framework for performance assessment and specify indexes for it. The authors aim to facilitate the teacher/evaluator’s work by equipping him or her with easy-to-apply tools and techniques for in-depth analysis of interactions. Finally, they describe our application of the proposed framework in an exploratory case study of a problem-solving activity in which a complex collaborative strategy is applied.
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Complex collaborative learning strategies (such as Pyramid, Jigsaw, Think Pair Share, Think Aloud Pair Problem Solving) have been widely used in instructional practice. Teachers who use the dynamics and qualities of various collaborative strategies design and develop respective collaborative learning scripts. Scripts describe the way learners should collaborate, i.e., the sequence of tasks, the distribution of roles, the deliverables, etc. Learners who participate in such collaborative learning scripts become involved in a grid of interaction patterns, i.e., learner-learner, learner-teacher, and learner-resources interactions (Moore, 1989).

It is well known that assessment plays a very important role in the instructional process since it gives learners an opportunity to receive substantive feedback on their understanding and competency (Kodri, 2003). Feedback gives learners an opportunity to understand what they have done and to compare their performance to self-set goals as well as to group-set goals. Assessing group and individual performance in collaborative learning scripts is not an easy task (Marcos, Martinez, & Dimitriadis, 2005; Petropoulou, Lazakidou, Retalis, & Vrasidas, 2007). A teacher should have good insights into students’ learning behaviour when evaluating their performance in collaborative tasks in order to correlate student’s behaviour while executing collaborative tasks with the grades given on assessment of their deliverables (Barros & Verdejo, 2000; Poole, 2000; Martínez, Dimitriadis, & De La Fuente, 2003; Saltz, Hiltz, & Turoff, 2004; Ho & Swan, 2007).

For this reason teachers usually develop frameworks for assessing learners’ performance that take various aspects of collaborative learning sessions into consideration. These frameworks are used for product assessment as well as for performance assessment. Product assessment focuses on the grading of the actual learners’ deliverables to evaluate whether a skill has been applied or some concept has been learned. Performance assessment is based more on the process used by learners than on the final product. It relies on the judgment of the teacher who observes the learners’ behaviour as they perform a predetermined set of tasks. Thus a framework should be developed that can be used with a computer-supported collaborative learning script and enable the teacher to analyse, with a list of specific criteria, the level of quality of a product and of performance.

Currently, few reusable assessment frameworks exist for computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) scripts based on well-known collaborative learning strategies. Reusable assessment frameworks have become a necessity since they can facilitate teachers’ burdensome mission of learner assessment (Voyiatzaki, Margaritis, & Avouris, 2006; Daradoumis, Martínez, & Xhafa, 2006). A teacher needs guidance and support in analysing, measuring, and correlating the complex data that can be gathered during collaborative learning activities so they can be used to effectively and efficiently assess students’ individual and group performance (Chan & van Aalst, 2006; Daradoumis et al., 2006; Zinn & Scheuer, 2006; Swan, Shen, & Hiltz, 2006).

Fortunately, several recent studies have focused on analysis of participation and interaction of students and teachers in CSCL settings (Persico, Pozzi, & Sarti, 2009). In these studies, various indicators have been proposed for the analysis of interaction among students. These indicators can be used to assess the performance of individuals and groups. Thus, assessment frameworks with associated assessment rubrics that make use of these indicators should be proposed.

Our chapter aims to identify those indicators that can be used/reused to build a conceptual framework with the associated rubrics for teachers to use to assess students’ productivity and performance when engaged in CSCL tasks. The expected benefits of reusability of indicators are the following:

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