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Collective mediation: a neo-Vygotskian perspective of undergraduate interdisciplinary group projects

by Raven, John M.

Abstract (Summary)
With an underlying concern for grounding pedagogical practice, this study uses controversial methods to research a controversial issue: the dynamic between the social nature of learning and the isolating nature of computer technology. The context chosen for researching this concern comprises a case study of four groups that participated in an undergraduate interdisciplinary group project as part of their second year studies in business at the Auckland University of Technology, a programme marketed on the basis of the development of authentic skills and capabilities using this particular pedagogy. What is of interest is how the use of computer technology allowed the participants to co-construct meaning in this context. This interest in the socially and culturally constructed aspects of human functioning rests upon a Vygotskian perspective, which I review along with various appropriations of this theory and other viewpoints in the literature review. Based upon this analysis, I then present a model for Collective Mediation, which views the computer as a mediational tool encompassed within the collaborative activity of the groups involved in this study. At this point I also suggest a protocol, or framework, for understanding this joint activity, which then guides the research methodology. The primary source of data in the study consists of transcriptions of focus group meetings with the participants over a four month period of time, a method that is justified by the requirements of the research to understand the multitude of relationships among the group members and with computer technology. To support triangulation, a questionnaire, log sheets, and member checks were also employed. The results reveal not only a rich fabric of activities and meanings, but a complex social dynamic guiding the events leading up to the construction of a joint project: one that was constrained, as well as supported, by the use of computers. In key areas, the pedagogy studied was shown to lack support. This thesis adds material to the debate concerning the interface between the computer, as an increasingly complex medium for educational activities, and the social fabric created within an authentic group project at tertiary level. There are clear practical implications. On a theoretical level, the study adds to an understanding of how neo-Vygotskian theory can, or cannot, be interpreted to understand such settings and, in terms of methodology, the study introduces a new protocol for analysing the rich data set that is needed to capture the dynamics involved.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr. Judy Parr (University of Auckland); Professor Stuart McNaughton (University of Auckland); Dr. Chris Cloke (University of Bath, England); Dr. John Barnett (University of Western Ontario, Canada)

School:The University of Auckland / Te Whare Wananga o Tamaki Makaurau

School Location:New Zealand

Source Type:Master's Thesis

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ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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