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Implementing virtual collaborative inquiry practises in a middle-school context

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The aim of the present study was to investigate the challenges that relate to the implementation of virtual inquiry practises in middle school. The case was a school course in which a group of Finnish students (N = 14) and teachers (N = 7) completed group inquiries through virtual collaboration, using a web-based learning environment. The task was to accomplish a cross-disciplinary inquiry into cultural issues. The students worked mainly at home and took much responsibility for their course achievements. The investigators analysed the pedagogical design of the course and the content of the participants' interaction patterns in the web-based environment, using qualitative content analysis and social network analysis. The findings suggest that the students succeeded in producing distinctive cultural products, and both the students and the teachers adopted novel roles during the inquiry. The web-based learning environment was used more as a coordination tool for organizing the collaborative work than as a forum for epistemic inquiry. The tension between the school curriculum and the inquiry practises was manifest in the participants' discussions of the assessment criteria of the course.
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Keywords: Collaborative knowledge building; Middle school; Pedagogical design; Pedagogical innovation; Progressive inquiry learning; Virtual learning

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Research on Networked Learning and Knowledge Building, Department of Psychology, Finland 2: Faculty of Education, University of Turku, TURKU, Finland

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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