Gerry Stahl, "Theories of Collaborative Cognition"


(On the photo: Figure 1 in his paper)

Sometimes a person must read one paper again and again, and after years again, and then "suddenly" you got it; you understand what the author wanted to say. Sometimes you must read another author who cites the "one" paper. And then, you see the big picture. The question is what 'conditions' changed that I can say, 'I now see the clue'?

Thanks to Gerry Stahl "Theories of Collaborative Cognition"! Read more 

Stahl argues that there are more or less enough theories of computer-supported learning regarding the individual level (a) as well as community-of-practice level (b). BUT small group studies (c), in particular collaborative cognition development and theories for those, are missing. Stahl provides such a theory of small groups interaction and called this "collaborative cognition". The unit of analysis is the group - not the person!

He supports the idea with a quote by Grudin (1994): "Computer support has focused on organizations and individuals. (But) Groups are different. Repeated, expensive groupware failures result from not meeting the challenges in design and evaluation that arise from these differences" (p. 93); read: Grudin, J. (1994). Eight challenges for developers. Communications of the ACM. 37(1), 93-105.

And - according to Stahl - there are not enough appropriate research projects that focus on "interaction" (they say so, but they don't). Either they focus on the individuals (attitudes of people, questionnaires,...) or on the society level (large groups). To conclude, we need research methods that have the potential to study the interactions in small groups.

What do we also learn? A "successful" sociotechnical-educational design for learning is a design that support different groups and their differences to make learning workable and learnable. To make the question more visible: How to design mobile learning for small groups in schools?