Intersubjective Meaning-Making in Dyads Using Object-Typed Concept Mapping

Intersubjective Meaning-Making in Dyads Using Object-Typed Concept Mapping

Josianne Basque (LICEF Research Center, Tèle-Universitè, Canada) and Béatrice Pudelko (LICEF Research Center, Tèle-Universitè, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-992-2.ch010
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In this chapter, we investigate, with an intersubjective epistemology approach, how a concept mapping software tool that integrates a typology of knowledge objects (nodes) and a typology of links mediates the process of meaning-making and of meaning-negotiation of a dyad of adult learners engaged in a collaborative concept mapping activity, more specifically in the context of a text comprehension task. This case study shows that the tool and its object-typed concept mapping language induce certain types of epistemic actions as well as the formation of diverse representational rules by participants, which were jointly and progressively elaborated by them in an intensive effort to share meaning.
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Combining the advantages of the learning strategy of concept mapping1 (CM) with those of collaborative learning, collaborative concept mapping (CCM) has become a topic of interest for an increasing number of researchers in the field of education (Basque & Lavoie, 2006; Gao, Shen, Losh, & Turner, 2007; Kim, Yang, & I-Chun, 2005; Nesbit & Adesope, 2006).

A close examination of the methodologies of 39 studies reported in our own review of research in this field (Basque & Lavoie, 2006), along with over 20 additional studies reviewed since then, made it possible to pinpoint many differences in the structure of the CCM tasks proposed to learners by researchers. For instance, a list of concepts and/or links may be provided to subjects; links may be labelled or not; links may be arrowed or not; roles may be given by researchers to each member of the CCM group, communication constraints may be imposed, etc. Also, CM software tools, such as Inspiration, CMapTools, or others (some of them still being R&D products), are becoming increasingly popular. Actually, a total of 43 of the 65 studies that we investigated so far provided students with a CM software tool, either in a face-to-face context (21 studies) or at a distance (24 studies2). In this chapter, we argue that the CM tool and the CM method used in CCM activities can significantly affect the processes of meaning-making and that of meaning-negotiation amongst learners and, consequently, upon learning that may result from such activities.

The idea that CM software are “cognitive tools” (Kommers, Jonassen, & Mayes, 1992; Lajoie & Derry, 1993) or “mindtools” (Jonassen, 2000) to the same extent as databases, microworlds or visualization tools was put forth by Jonassen in the beginnings of the nineties (Jonassen, 1992). Such tools facilitate external representations of information and enhance cognitive functioning (Kommers, Jonassen, & Mayes, 1992; Olson, 1985). This notion of cognitive tool is somewhat similar to the notion of “cognitive artefact” proposed in the field of Human-Machine Interaction by Norman (1991) and by other authors involved in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) (Suthers, 2006) or working within the Activity Theory framework (Engeström, Miettinen, & Punamäki, 1999). Such a notion acts as a kind of “boundary object” (Star & Griesemer, 1989) for researchers from different fields sharing the idea that external knowledge representation tools guide and influence the learner's activity and, thus, must be considered when investigating potential learning benefits. In the field of CSCL, Suthers (2003) suggested the expression “representational guidance” to refer to the fact that the properties of cognitive tools constrain which knowledge can be expressed in a shared context, and, in making some characteristics of that knowledge more salient, promote certain types of “epistemic actions” to the detriment of others.

In this chapter, we investigate how a CM tool that integrates a typology of knowledge objects and a typology of links mediates the process of meaning-making and of meaning-negotiation of learners engaged in a CCM activity, more specifically in the context of a text comprehension task.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Representational Guidance: According to Suthers (2003), it designates a set of constraints and facilities offered by the representational notation that provides a set of primitive elements out of which external representations can be constructed. A cognitive tool is a software implementation of a representational notation.

Cognitive Tools (or Mind tools): Computer-based tools and learning environments that have been adapted or developed to function as intellectual partners with the learner in order to engage and facilitate critical thinking and higher-order learning.

Object-typed concept mapping: A technique of concept mapping based on the use of typologies of knowledge objects and links.

Meaningful Learning: According to Ausubel (1968), it is a non-arbitrary, non-verbatim, substantive incorporation of new knowledge into cognitive structure requiring deliberate effort to link new knowledge with higher order concepts in cognitive structure.

Boundary Object: Term proposed by Star & Griesemer (1989) to designate an entity (artifact, document, vocabulary) that can help people from different communities build a shared understanding. Boundary objects will be interpreted differently by the different communities, and it is an acknowledgement and discussion of these differences that enables a shared understanding to be formed.

Activity Theory: A psychological meta-theory initiated by a group of revolutionary Russian psychologists in the 1920s and 1930s, mainly L.S. Vygotsky and his colleagues A. R. Luria and A. N. Leont’ev. Basic principles of Activity Theory include object-orientedness, the dual concepts of internalization/externalization, tool mediation, hierarchical structure of activity, and continuous development.

Cognitive Artefact: An artificial device designed to maintain, display, or operate upon information in order to serve a representational function.

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