Communication in collaborative discovery learning

Nadira Saab, Wouter R. Van Joolingen, Bernadette H.A.M. Van Hout-Wolters

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewAcademic


Background. Constructivist approaches to learning focus on learning environments in which students have the opportunity to construct knowledge themselves, and negotiate this knowledge with others. Discovery learning and collaborative learning are examples of learning contexts that cater for knowledge construction processes. We introduce a computer-based learning environment in which the two forms of learning are implemented simultaneously. We focus on the interaction between discovery learning and collaborative learning. Aim. We aim to investigate which communicative activities are frequently used in the discovery learning process and which communicative and discovery activities co-occur. Sample. The study involved 21 pairs of 10th-grade students enrolled in pre-university education, ranging from 15 to 17 years of age. Method. Participants worked in dyads on separate screens in a shared discovery learning environment. They communicated using a chat box. In order to find a possible relationship between communicative activities and discovery learning processes, correlational analysis and principal component analysis were performed. Result. Significant relationships were found between communicative and discovery activities, as well as five factors combining the communicative process and the discovery learning processes. Communicative activities are performed most frequently during the activities in generating hypotheses, experimental design, and conclusion construction. Argumentation occurs less than expected, and is associated with the construction of conclusions, rather than generating hypotheses. Conclusion. Communicative activities co-occur with discovery activities most of the time, as we expected. Further research should concentrate on means to augment communicative and discovery activities that are related to positive learning outcomes. © 2005 The British Psychological Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-621
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • cooperation
  • exploratory behavior
  • female
  • human
  • interpersonal communication
  • learning
  • male
  • review
  • social environment


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