I’ve just finished reading a whole whack of stuff about the history of constructivism and constructionism in educational theories. Fascinating. But in it all, I came across a gem of a reference that helps (I think) support my point in an argument with Dennis Harter about the IB Learner Profile. To sum up, our Twitter discussion was about whether the IB Learner Profile adequately covers the area of collaboration. Dennis thinks it doesn’t; he feels that it should be a separate attribute in the Learner Profile. I, however, think it is adequately covered under Communication. I think this because communication does not exist in a vacuum. To be an effective Communicator, you must know how to work with others effectively. To me, the terms “communicator” and “collaborator” are NOT mutually exclusive. You cannot be one without being the other.
So, I was reading a chapter from Psychology of Learning for Instruction by M.P. Driscoll (2005), and came across a cross-reference to some research done by Roy Pea (1994) and Edelson, Pea, and Gomez (1995). I looked up the article (PDF) by Pea, Edelson, and Gomez, “Constructivism in the Collaboratory,” which describes how the authors set up a learning environment based on constructivist theories which allows learners to collaborate in an open-ended investigation. Here is the quote that got me; it is from the conclusion:
The collaboration tools enable students to engage in this scientific practice in a social context that includes other students, teachers, and scientists. The resulting social interactions enhance the learning that students achieve through the transformative process of communication. (p.16)
Basically, the authors are concluding that collaboration enables social interactions, and these interactions — and therefore the collaborative efforts — are achieved via communication. So, one cannot be collaborative without communicating effectively. Communication is essential to collaboration, and can not be achieved in any way other than via communication.
Roy Pea, in his article (PDF) about how multimedia (specifically computer-supported collaborative learning, or CSCL) can help or transform communication between learners, comes to a similar conclusion earlier. His article is about how the complex construction of CSCL needs to be re-thought in light of new ways of communication. He says, about communication in relationship to collaborative processes:
I therefore propose describing this third view of communication as transformative. The initiate in new ways of thinking and knowing in education and learning practices is transformed by the process of communication with the cultural messages of others, but so, too, is the other (whether teacher or peer) in what is learned about the unique voice and understanding of the initiate. (p.288)
What to make of all of this? I would posit that recent research suggests that communciation is an essential part of collaboration: communication changes the way we collaborate. It cannot be separated from it, and therefore the IB Learner Profile is justified in applying these two domains together.
Edelson, D.C., Pea, R., and Gomez, L. (1995) Constructivism in the Collaboratory. In B.G. Wilson (1995) Constructivist Learning Environments: Case Studies in instructional design. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.
Pea, R. (1994). Seeing What We Build Together: Distributed Multimedia Learning Environments for Transformative Communications. In Journal of the Learning Sciences, pp. 285-299.