Representational Guidance

The Representational Guidance project was started to improve our understanding of how collaborative learning is facilitated by computer software with which learners construct and manipulate visual representations of their emerging knowledge. “Representational guidance” refers to how these software environments facilitate the expression and inspection of different kinds of information.

With funding from the National Science Foundation Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence program, we conducted experimental studies of how three tools for constructing representations of evidential models (Graph, Matrix and Text representations) influenced face to face collaborative learning processes and outcomes (the image is from our video capture of a Graph session). Our results included differences in the quantity of different kinds of information that were represented, the amount of talk devoted to issues of evidence, differences in focus on essential versus irrelevant relationships, and differences in whether the representational work done by student participants was reflected in the content of essays they wrote later. See our papers (listed below) for details of results. We are presently analyzing the results of a distance collaboration study.

This work provides a better understanding of the role of representational bias in guiding collaborative learning and problem solving processes. It can inform the design of more effective collaborative learning and distance learning environments, and also has applications to the design of representational tools for a variety of other knowledge applications, such as collaborations between scientists.

Major Publications:

Suthers, D. D. (2001).
Towards a Systematic Study of Representational
Guidance for Collaborative Learning Discourse.

Journal of Universal Computer Science 7(3), 2001.
Electronic publication:
PDF preprint

Suthers, D. (2001).
Collaborative Representations: Supporting Face
to Face and Online Knowledge-building Discourse.
of the 34th Hawai`i International Conference on the System Sciences
, January 3-6, 2001, Maui, Hawai`i (CD-ROM), Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE).
PDF preprint

Suthers, D., and Hundhausen, C. (2003).
An Empirical Study of the Effects of Representational
Guidance on Collaborative Learning.
Journal of the Learning
12(2), 183-219.
PDF preprint

Suthers, D., Hundhausen, C., & Girardeau, L. (2003).
Comparing the roles of representations in face-to-face
and online computer supported collaborative learning
. Computers & Education, 41: 335-351.