Collaborating to Learn – Part Deux

In the unit 3 student-led seminar our topic was ‘Reaching the Online Learner’ and one of the useful additions to the seminar summary was the published responses to our induction activity questionnaire.  Whilst all responses and the summaries were interesting I found myself focusing with particular interest on the results in questions 3, 6 and 7.

Cognitive Presence Q3 ‘I found that work on my own was the primary way I learned’ responses indicated:

  • 2 of 13 strongly agreed
  • 7 of 13 agreed
  • 1 of 13 were neutral
  • 3 of 13 disagreed

I found this interesting since, although I don’t recall my exact reply all these weeks later, I suspect it was ‘disagree’.  What the other participants responses have opened up to me is that in spite of my Community of Inquiry (CoI) categorisation being high in Social and Cognitive presences, I must take into consideration that, from the 13 responses only 2 others agreed with me and 9 indicated they learned primarily in quite a different way to me. What also surprised me was looking more closely at Cognitive Presence Q6 ‘I found that text-based questions were the primary way I learned’ that 7 of 13 agreed with this statement but remarkably, in student-led seminar 3 and, especially in seminar 4, there were not many participants actually getting involved in the text-based questions.  The replies to Q6 perhaps show then that even when people don’t get involved in the text-based question discussions, they are still learning from them.  Part of me feels let down by those students not participating and thereby contributing nothing to, but only taking from, the Cognitive Presence indicators!

The other question I was drawn to thinking more deeply about was Social Presence Q7 ‘I felt comfortable disagreeing with other course participants while still maintaining a sense of trust’ where the responses were:

  • 7 of 13 agreed
  • 4 of 13 were neutral
  • 2 of 13 disagreed

Personally I wasn’t surprised by this spread of responses, and most of my fellow participants reflected my thoughts by agreeing that without the very key communication aspects of Body Language and Tone, it is more difficult to get across the true meaning of your words in disagreement.  This of course is backed up with the often quoted Albert Merhabian Equation (1971):Thinking a little more deeply about Mehabian’s theory I searched for who was disagreeing with it and found this short video online…

This explanation focuses on the idea that Merhabian is mis-quoted and that words of course are far more important than only 7% of the meaning. It suggests that the equation was developed to explain what happens when what we’re saying stems from attitudes and feelings.  Since I suspect that ‘natural’ disagreement does stem from these forces, we are more likely to step away from confronting another’s attitudes and feelings when we’re using only words supported by a written indication of our tone.

What I believe took the seminar participants (or me at least) a step nearer to feeling more comfortable disagreeing was the debating exercise in week 2, where we had to leave aside our own personal views and debate the merits and limitations of Social Presence from the viewpoint of the group we’d been placed in. I also believe the success of the debate was supported by the ‘Netiquette Rule’ of keeping posts short i.e. no more than 200 words – this kept the pressure of too much reading to a minimum 🙂

I found myself ‘arguing’ a viewpoint that was basically at odds with my own personal feelings and beliefs. This made me take a broader outlook on the subject and encouraged more of a measured, academic and non-confrontational approach.  Something I found very interesting to be involved in and one which I believed helped me move towards one of my own LO for this blog i.e. Engaging more efficiently in the suggested reading and practising reviewing the literature clearly into my learning.  I believe this has helped me engage more efficiently in the reading and reviewing and not only from where my beliefs lie, but also engaging more on the other side of the argument.

This strategy was also employed in student-led seminar 4, where I learned some more on identifying debating groups using Moodle tools.

Watch this space for part 3…

Creativityworks.net. Busting the Mehrabian Myth https://youtu.be/7dboA8cag1M (last accessed 12th April 2015 @ 15.35.

Mehrabian. A. (1971). Silent Messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Unit 3 student-led seminar 2014/15 Survey Responses and Initial Analysis http://moodlecommunity.napier.ac.uk/mod/page/view.php?id=5924 (last accessed 12th April 2015 @ 15.29)

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