Two studies were conducted to explore the role of activities on students’ learning outcomes across dyadic and individual conditions. We also investigated dialogue patterns and verbal moves for productive interactions in dyadic conditions, and how these interactions are influenced by the learning activities provided for students to engage. For study 1, we created the “connecting atomic bonding and physical properties” activity which required engineering students to understand the relations between bonding energy, elastic modulus, melting points, and coefficient of thermal expansion concepts. There were graphs, figures and an activity sheet in this activity. These graphs and figures illustrated the properties of three metals in terms of elastic modulus, bond energy, thermal expansion and melting points. We also created an activity sheet with five short answer questions to scaffold and guide students to interpret specific aspects of the information provided in the graphs and figures. In study 1, students (N = 72) were given this instructional activity and asked to interpret graphs and figures. Whereas in study 2 (N = 62) students were given text and asked to generate graphs and figures based on the information in the text. The text described the same concepts as in study 1 such as bonding energy, elastic modulus, melting points, and coefficient of thermal expansion. For both studies, we compared the dyads’ performance in collaborative learning condition with students’ performance in individual condition by using the same pre- and post-tests. Test results showed while dyads in Study 1 outperformed the individual students, there were no differences in Study 2.
In order to explore why dyads in study 1 performed significantly better than the students in all other conditions (including study 2), we conducted verbal analysis in terms of effective dialogue patterns and verbal moves for productive interactions. While all the analysis for the Study 1 is finalized and reported in this paper, the verbal analysis for the Study 2 is still in progress, therefore we only reported the overall learning results for the Study 2. The verbal analysis for students’ dialogue indicated a strong relation between the quality of interaction, scaffolding duration, and individual learning gains. As the statements and responses of each student build upon those of the other, indicating a shared line of reasoning, both students benefited from the collaboration. In addition, the verbal analysis examining each utterance based on the discourse moves revealed that certain moves are significantly linked with student learning. These findings are noteworthy for providing insights into the role of certain dialogue patterns for effective collaboration in an unstructured face-to-face collaborative learning environment.
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