Enhancing learning through collaborative inquiry and action

J. W. Hamilton
2007, Vol. 12, No. 3,


A social constructivist view of learning places particular
emphasis on collaboration, interpersonal skills and
social aspects of learning. The emphasis of this
research study is on children’s learning and learning
enhancement through cognitive conflict, social
construction and metacognition during collaborative
design and technology problem solving. The work
evolved from the author’s involvement with a
Comenius 2.1 European project entitled DIAL:Connect
(using dialogue to connect learning minds). Pupils
worked in groups to develop a solution to a design
and technology challenge that originated from within
a story context. The children were encouraged to use
dialogue as a tool for thinking in their collaboration:
questioning, clarifying, challenging, reviewing and
reflecting. The nature of the teacher intervention
during the collaboration and reflective inquiry became
a main focus of this research. The same teacher was
involved with each of the three groups in the research
study, but to a greater or lesser extent.
The hypothesis that quality of learning and learning
outcome are dependent on the quality of
communication; the reasoning and creativity
embedded within the collaborative dialogues, was
tested. Three composite groups, two girls and two
boys, engaged with the same technology challenge,
but at different times. Whilst the pupils were from the
same year group of 11 yr olds, they were more used
to working independently than interdependently.
Having agreed the ground rules beforehand they
were encouraged to work collaboratively and be
reflective in action. Video and audio recordings of
each group facilitated analysis of the verbal interaction
and group dynamics.
A qualitative content analysis of the transcripts
showed interpersonal relationships and the language
of thinking, action and productive activity to be better
managed by the third group. This group appeared to
be better coordinated, more cohesive, and more
productively engaged than the other two. There was
greater goal conformity, tolerance of different
viewpoints and the teacher adopted a key role in the
orchestration and mediation of learning. All of this
seemed to impact significantly on the quality of
learning and learning outcomes.


Collaborative ; Teacher intervention ; Metacognition ; Interpersonal skills ; Creativity ; Dialogical reasoning ; Thinking

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