Collaborative Student Groups and Critical Thinking in an Online Basic Communication Course

Roy Schwartzman (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA) and Megan Morrissey (The University of Colorado at Boulder, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 65
EISBN13: 9781609603304|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-863-0.ch002
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Abstract

This chapter examines discussion board postings of ten undergraduate student groups (n = 45 students) who participated in collaborative problem-solving in a fully online, introductory communication course. Postings during a full academic year—three sections offered during three consecutive 15-week trimesters—reveal that student usage of the online format did not exhibit progressive development of critical thinking. Few student posts exhibited qualities of interrogation, exploration, convergence, or application that constitute the reflective thought process. Instead, students used threaded discussions primarily as forums for personal assertions, relational maintenance, and summaries of research. The study suggests that concepts of critical thinking require adaptation to an online environment that diverges from the linear cognitive process assumed in traditional approaches to critical inquiry. The online learning environment must reconcile the strong need to establish group cohesion with the impetus toward groupthink that limits critical thinking.
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