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H809 – Reading Rochelle, 1992 (A4.2a)

March 2, 2011

Reading Rochelle was really tough and similar to the image below I can say that from reading 93,5% I understood just half of it and there is a more than 31,1% possibility that I still don’t know the right answer to the questions asked 😉

Let’s try to approach this task and try to get some more meaning into the whole article. One thing is for sure the article presented a wide range of theoretical perspectives, but in combination with the chosen subject – the concepts of velocity and acceleration – I kind of lost it and found it hard to extract the relevant topics for me.

Rochelle’s article ‘Learning by Collaboration: Convergent Conceptual change‘ has focus on the problem of convergent conceptual change. It is assumed that the major problem of collaboration is the problem of convergence, thus to come to a shared, mutual understanding. Thus I think the main argument/claim made by Rochelle is …

What argument is being made?

‘How can two (or more) people coordinate their construction of concepts so that they can be increasingly certain that the share a common understanding of a particular subject matter?’ How can they construct shared meanings of conversations, concepts, and experiences?

How  does that relate to the kind of research reported? How does the research question interact with the research work being undertaken?

I put those two questions together, because at first hand I don’t see any real difference. The fact that English is not my first language still causes some problems to grasp the true meanings of some questions.

Rochelle conducted a microscopic analysis of a single case. The case involves two high school students who volunteered to participate. Their task was to work in collaboration with a computer software called Envisioning Machine (EM), a direct-manipulation graphical simulation of the concepts of velocity and acceleration and to develop a shared scientific understanding of the concepts of acceleration and velocity.

Rochelle wants to proof with the analysis that cognitive and social outcomes can be achieved.

  • cognitive outcomes – conceptual change occurred
  • social outcomes – both students shared the new conceptual structure.

‘Rochelle (1992) states that the analysis will show that Carol and Dana, the two students, cooperatively constructed and understanding of acceleration that constituted

  1. a large conceptual change from their previous concept (cognitive outcome)
  2. a qualitative approximation to the scientific meaning of acceleration (cognitive outcome)
  3. a closely share meaning between one another (social outcome)

What kinds of evidence are relevant to the research question?

Quantitative data in form of test results from the EM are needed  to proof that the students came to a qualitative approximation to the scientific meaning of acceleration (cognitive outcome -2). The description of the educational background of the students, that they had not yet studied physics and the comment from their chemistry that they are average students who were ‘having a hard time in science’ helps to find out if conceptual change from their previous concept (cognitive outcome -1) occurred.

The final interview and the analysis of the students conversational action during the episodes serves as evidence (qualitative data) to support Rochelle’s social outcome claim that both students shared the new conceptual structure after finishing all episodes. Hence, Rochelle used a mixed method to collect qualitative and quantitative data to back up her argument.

How are the results/data presented? Compare with how Wegerif and Mercer presented their results.

Rochelle is very confident about her results. He often uses phrases like ‘this episode provides strong evidence’  or ‘the interview provides sound evidence’ , … substantial evidence, … considerable evidence. Rochelle is positive that the case study proofed beyond  question that the outcome claims he made, thus that two (or more) people can construct a shared meaning and achieve thus a convergent conceptual change through collaboration.

Contrary Wegerif and Mercer present their results in a more cautions way, referring to a potential success, reflecting thus Laurillards position that researcher present their results often in a very general way. Wegerif and Mercer present similar to Rochelle figure(s) to display the task, both present excerpts from the interaction between the students, though Rochelle’s excerpts are pretty lengthy, but Wegerif and Mercer present their quantitative data in form of a graph showing how test results improved and a table that summarize test scores, number of questions used during the interaction, use of key words (e.g. because, if, so) to answer their research questions. This kind data is missing in Rochelle’s article.

What does that say about the kinds of material that count as ‘evidence’ for the claims being made?

I found Rochelle’s findings/evidence not really sound contrary to e.g. Wegerif and Mercer. Rochelle e.g. claims that the use of the word “we” is an indicator of a shared state of knowledge. He even uses himself the word “we” to state ‘we can conclude that a considerable large extent … ‘ (p.263). Does the use the word ‘we’ always indicate shared knowledge – as I teacher I sometime use the we phrase to say ‘We have to do that’ and sometimes my student respond saying that not we but they have to do a certain activity. It is not clear, at least not to me,  how Rochelle interpret the conversational action. I found it kind of strange who much interpretation she put into Carol’s utterance ‘Right’ (p.256), amazing what you can read out of one word.

What does the author consider relevant about the context or setting for the study?

We know that the two participating students are from a private, urban high school with no prior knowledge in physics. We know about the task and the technology, the EM used.

What is the nature of the claims made in the evaluation?

Rochelle claims that the cognitive and social outcome claims are fully achieved.

How is the previously reported data used to support these claims?

I think I kind of answered that in my previous answer regarding the question ‘What does that say about the kinds of material that count as ‘evidence’ for the claims being made?’

In what ways does the author relate the reported results to the wider literature?

Rochelle refers to countless (three pages) other authors. Citation search in the ISI revealed no results, which is I guess related to the fact that ISI does not display the whole title of Roschelle’s article, thus I don’t know which article to search for. However, citation search in Google Scholar revealed that Roschelle’s article was cited by 657. Rochelle e.g. states that ‘the efficiency of such conversational structures for achieving convergent meanings have been thoroughly documented by e.g. Clark & Schaefer, 1985; Goodwin & Heritage, 1990 or that the roots of convergence can be traced to John Dewey (1938) and G. H. Mead (1934).

Are the theoretical recommendations justified by the reported research?

Based on my personal experience I believe that collaboration can lead to a convergent conceptual change, although I am not sure if the knowledge of those involved in the collaborative work was always isomorphic. However, I don’t think the way Rochelle present his evidence fully justifies the theoretical recommendations. Eventually, it is just based on one case study involving two students.

Concluding I have to point out, that contrary to Rochelle, I am not overly confident that my answers provided are sound, substantial or considerable 😉


Roschelle, J. (1992) ‘Learning by collaborating: convergent conceptual change’, Journal of the Learning Sciences, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 235–76.

Wegerif, R. and Mercer, N. (1997) ‘Using computer-based text analysis to integrate qualitative and quantitative methods in research on collaborative learning’, Language and Education, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 271–86.


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