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Second-generation instructional design for e-learning.


A four-stage model for learning critical thinking skills using multimedia has recently been proposed, and here the instructional effectiveness of this model is reported. The Design for Multimedia in Learning (DML) Model has four distinct stages; of brainstorming cooperative group learning using synchronous media, then lateral-thinking collaborative learning using asynchronous media, followed by hypotheses-testing collaborative asynchronous, and finally sharing experiential-learning cooperatively using synchronous media. Signified hypertext links were purposively designed to complement the cooperative or collaborative style for each related stage. Empirical validation found that, while graduate students and closely-guided small groups could complete all four stages, students at the undergraduate level could successfully move through only the first two stages.

1. Introduction

1.1 Previous models of learning

Two significant Models have been proposed to identify the essential steps of learning critical thinking skills; one by Dewey and another by Brookfield.

Dewey [1] proposed five phases of reflective or critical thinking--(1) suggestions, in which the mind leaps forward to a possible solution; (2) an intellectualization of the difficulty or perplexity that has been felt (directly experienced) into a problem to be solved, a question for which the answer must be sought; (3) the use of one suggestion after another as a leading idea, or hypothesis, to initiate and guide observation and other operations in collection of factual material; (4) the mental elaboration of the idea or supposition (reasoning, in the sense in which reasoning is a part, not the whole, of inference); and (5) testing the hypothesis by overt or imaginative action.

Brookfield [2] proposed also five phases to develop critical thinking--(1) a triggering event; (2) an appraisal of the situation; (3) an exploration to explain anomalies or discrepancies; (4) developing alternative perspectives; and (5) integration of alternatives in ways of thinking or living.

However, the steps given in the above models do not correlate with each other. The steps are not clearly distinguishable, and indeed their processes need not be sequenced linearly. So these models are not sufficiently clear to constitute the basis of a syllabus. A new clear and practical model is needed to provide the theoretic basis for an intelligent syllabus for acquiring critical thinking skills using multimedia based on the distinct ways of learning.

1.2 The distinct ways of learning

There are four distinct ways of learning [3]; learning alone independently, alone individually, in a group cooperatively, and in a group collaboratively. Here it is important to distinguish cooperative learning from collaborative learning, in order to deploy these in the proposed new Model.

Cooperative learning essentially involves at least one member of the group who 'knows' the content soon to be learnt by the other(s). Learning takes place through the 'knower' repeating, reiterating, recapitulating, paraphrasing, summarising, reorganising, or translating the point to be learnt.

Collaborative learning follows a scientific process of testing out hypotheses. A participant publicly articulates his (or her) own opinion as a hypothesis and being open to the value of conflict allows this to be negated if possible by others, in which case the original participant or another offers up a modified or alternative hypothesis for public scrutiny. In collaborative learning, disagreement and intellectual conflict are desirable interactions. All participants share in co-constructing the new knowledge together, and this learning occurs inside the group as a type of consensus achieved through analysis and argument. In collaborative learning, there was no 'knower' prior to the learning process taking place (in contrast to the situation of cooperative learning.)

1.3 The 'Design for Multimedia in Learning' Model

A new Model for learning critical thinking using multimedia has been proposed by Kawachi [4]. Design is a key characteristic generally lacking in the current applications to date of computer-mediated communications adopted in conventional face-to-face or distance education courses. The 'Design for Multimedia in Learning' (DML) Model translates conventional theoretical models of learning into an efficient practical design for use in the multimedia educational environment. The two leading previous models have variously postulated five phases to critical thinking for learning. This new Model has four distinct stages, and is directly underpinned by Moore's [5] Theory of Transactional Distance which tries to measure the psychological distance between the student and the information to be learnt, an approach which has been widely accepted as an effective theory underlying and informing open and distance education. The original Theory is adapted here (for a discussion here see Kawachi [3]. The four stages of the new Design for Multimedia in Learning (DML) Model are as follows:

In Stage 1, learning occurs in a group cooperatively, gathering and sharing information and fostering a learning community. Here synchronous mode computer-mediated communications are best such as chat and conferencing. This Stage can be characterised by self-introductions (as a prelude to being a source of content material to other students), brain-storming (limited at this Stage 1 to only accumulating new ideas, yet to be argued in Stage 2), involving divergent thinking to gather various different perceptions in order to explore and to frame each student's context, and helping each other as equals with obtaining content especially in sharing personal experiences and past literature that has been read, which constitute old foundational knowledge. The transactional distance initially is at a maximum with no teaching-dialogue and with no pre-set structure.

In Stage 2, lateral-thinking (creative thinking around the problem) is used to generate and develop metaphors (an idea or conception that is basically dissimilar but formed from noting similarities between the initial information and the new concept) or new ideas, and these supported by argument. Students discuss for example their own problem they have found which has brought them to participate in the current course, and then argue to identify possible solutions to each other's problems. Creative thinking here may derive from combining seemingly disparate parts especially ideas contributed from others in different contexts into a new synergic whole. The teacher is still keeping academically at a distance away from the content under discussion, while the students are making their efforts to achieve some pre-set goal (to present own problem and reasons for engaging the current course, for example) which gives structure to their discussions. Some time is needed for reflection here, and asynchronous modes such as email and a bulletin board are effective.

In Stage 3, the tutor engages the students with guiding comments in what Holmberg [6] has described as a Guided Didactic Conversation, helping the students achieve the course structural requirements of understanding the general concepts to be learnt. The tutor poses questions and students defend their formulations. This Stage is characterised by hypotheses testing and logical straight-forward thinking (termed 'vertical" thinking in contrast to 'lateral' thinking) associated with problem-solving, and is collaborative. Asynchronous mode is ideal here, to allow sufficient time for cognitive connections and co-construction of new non-foundational knowledge.

In Stage 4, the final Stage, the course requirements have largely been already achieved and there is no structure left, except to disseminate the achieved mental ideas and test them out in real-life. This Stage is characterised by experiential learning and is cooperative, and at minimum transactional distance, in synchronous mode and with teaching dialogue to assist the students to reflect on their studies.

2. Empirical validation of the Model

2.1 Operationalizing the DML Model

In order to validate the model empirically, conference postings, email exchanges and hypertext linkages including worldwide web sites were recorded and categorised as either cooperative or collaborative. The internet is a non-narrative media in which no pre-determined pathway is provided to the student newly logging on. Hypertext linkages on corporate business web-sites have been categorised by Harrison [7], but there has been no categorisation to date of hypertext usage in educational web-sites. Students were told which links would lead to examples (for cooperative narrative), and which other links to reasons (in collaborative narrative). The learning narrative of each student was thus reconstructed. Details of the design of the DML Model are previously published [4].

It was postulated that during traveling through the courseware, some students would prefer to see examples while others would prefer to see reasons, with both groups achieving learning of the general concepts with no significant difference in achieved quality of learning. Lyons et al. [8] describe how some students prefer informal unstructured learning environments and cooperative learning in a group, while others would prefer collaborative learning in a group. The students examined in this study were all Japanese, and Japanese are known to prefer cooperative learning in a group, and avoid critical evaluation of others, preferring instead to preserve group harmony through empathetic sharing [9].

2.2 Results from pathway analyses

Courses ranged in topics but basically involved learning about culture, so content was available from the students themselves and new content could be retrieved easily from the web. Students were closely monitored, and also kept detailed notebooks on the pathways they chose--recording their own thoughts and URLs in sequence. The DML Model was tested out in large and small classes. Larger classes were divided into small groups of five or six students each. Students proceeded through courseware which asked them to express their own knowledge and opinions (Stage 1), justify and ask others for justification (Stage 2), and then seek out new information and critically evaluate this (Stage 3) to test out (Stage 4) in a learning cycle. In the small classes, students moved successfully through the whole learning cycle. In the large classes, the students remain as passive receivers of knowledge and did not move into the Stage 3 of collaborative co-construction of new knowledge--which was the basic aim of the course. It was concluded that tutor (the author) guidance was an important element and was too thinly spread while trying to manage five or six small groups simultaneously. In the larger classes, students did not achieve mastery of the collaborative learning despite trying to use the frameworks provided. Moreover, these larger classes were of undergraduates, while two of the three small classes were at the graduate level, thus confounding these results. It is well known [3] that collaborative learning characterises the construction of non-foundational. (graduate-level) knowledge rather than for acquisition of foundational knowledge (at the undergraduate-level). The DML Model clearly incorporates the need for core collaborative stages in learning. It was therefore postulated that learning critical thinking using multimedia was better suited to graduate-level students or to small-groups of tutor-guided undergraduate students.

3. Discussion

3.1 Problems arising and suggested solutions

The empirical validation was confounded by several factors including student age and academic level, quantity and quality of tutor guidance, gender (the participants were all female--who are recognised [8] as preferring cooperative over collaborative learning in a group), and culture (the students were all Japanese, using English-as-a Foreign-Language).

Despite close tutoring, and frameworks [4] to guide collaborative interactions in Stage 3, few students actually could proceed beyond Stage 2 or 3--both the collaborative stages. A similar finding was also reported by Perry [10] who concluded college students were maybe not yet sufficiently mature to acquire the skills of critical thinking. Through a four-year longitudinal study of unstructured interviews, Perry found that American students showed four phases of intellectual development: 1) dualistic (perceiving ideas as right or wrong, and teacher-centered), 2) multiplistic (accepting ambiguity, and content-centered), 3) relationistic (accepting ambiguity and dependent on own experience), and 4) commitment (active reasoning and enquiry centered). He clearly identified the fourth phase with critical thinking skills, but found that most college students were at the first phase or later part of the first phase, believing education meant the acquisition of information, and not yet challenging ideas and not yet hypothesising and testing out ideas through experiential learning (third and fourth phases). Piaget [11] also acknowledged that many people do not reach the level of Formal Operations (hypotheses-generating and testing) even in adulthood. Renner [12] found that only 81% of final-year students at two American law schools achieved the Formal Operations level, while McKinnon [13] found only 50% of college students at seven institutions were at the Formal Operations level. In their analysis of computer-mediated conferencing, Gunawardena et al. [14] found that participants did not proceed beyond the discovery and sharing of ideas, concepts and statements and did not reach to the phase of negotiation and co-construction of new knowledge. The participants in their study were relative experts in the use of distance education being (likely) graduate students and university-level teachers participating in the 'ICDE95 Online' a virtual pre-conference of the International Council on Distance Education. In a following study, Gunawardena et al. [15] again found that the "intended collaboration and sharing of ideas and issues simply did not happen" (p39). Clearly, students find it hard to engage the DML Model Stage 3.

A clear framework is needed underpinned by a theory for utilizing advanced learning technologies effectively. A tutor must increase educative dialogue (Stage 3), and ensure that the participants in their collaborative learning forum are on-task. One reason for students especially adults to avoid Stage 3 interactions is that the adult already holds high levels of self-doubt and finds the argument interactivity undesirable. The tutor therefore needs to initiate and continually re-initiate the intrinsic motivations to learn in each student [16]: through expressiveness and presence to initiate the intrinsic academic-and vocational motivations in Stage 2, and through initiating the personal motivations to learn (challenge, curiosity and fantasy) in Stage 3.

Advanced learning technologies such as computer conferencing, email and the world wide web are not yet used optimally due in large part to there being no theory underpinning the practice. The DML Model provides such a theory and serves to understand when, why and how to use these technologies effectively. Despite various difficulties arising concerning students' engaging Stage 3 collaboration using advanced learning technologies, the present DML Model is the only practical model proposed to date for acquiring critical thinking skills using computer-mediated multimedia, and constitutes a second-generation instructional design for an e-learning-based syllabus.

4. References

[1] Dewey, J. (1933). How We Think. Heath and Company, Lexington, MA.

[2] Brookfield, S.D. (1987). Developing Critical Thinkers. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

[3] Kawachi, P. (2003). Vicarious Interaction and the Achieved Quality of Learning. International Journal on E-Learning. (in press).

[4] Kawachi, P. (2003). Choosing the Appropriate Media to Support the Learning Process. Journal of Educational Technology, 14(1): 1-18.

[5] Moore, M. (1993). Theory of Transactional Distance. In D. Keegan, D. (Ed.) Theoretical Principles of Distance Education. Routledge, London. pp. 22-38.

[6] Holmberg, B. (1983). Guided Didactic Conversation in Distance Education. In D. Sewart, D. Keegan, & B. Holmberg (Eds.) Distance Education: International Perspectives. Croom Helm, London. pp. 114-122.

[7] Harrison, C. (2002). Hypertext Links : Whither Thou Goest, and Why. First Monday 7(10) (retrieved 10 October 2002) []

[8] Lyons, R.E., Kysilka, M.L., & Pawlas, G.E. (1999). The Adjunct Professor's Guide to Success. Allyn & Bacon, Needham Heights, MA.

[9] Kawachi, P. (2000). Why the Sun doesn't Rise: The Impact of Language on the Participation of Japanese Students in Global Online Education, Unpublished MA ODE Thesis, Open University, Milton Keynes UK.

[10] Perry, W.G. (1970). Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.

[11] Piaget, J. (1977). Intellectual Evolution from Adolescence to Adulthood. In P.N. Johnson-Laird, & P.C. Wason (Eds.) Thinking: Readings in Cognitive Science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

[12] Renner, J.S. (1976). Formal Operational Thought and Its Identification. In J.W. Renner, et al.(Eds.) Research, Teaching, and Learning with the Piaget Model. Oklahoma University Press, Norman, OK. pp. 64-78.

[13] McKinnon, J.W. (1976). The College Student and Formal Operations. In J.W. Renner, et al. (Eds.) Research, Teaching, and Learning with the Piaget Model. Oklahoma University Press, Norman, OK. pp. 110-129.

[14] Gunawardena, C.N., Lowe, C.A., & Anderson, T. (1997). Analysis of Global Online Debate and the Development of an Interaction Analysis Model for Examining Social Construction of Knowledge in Computer Conferencing. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 17(4): 397-431.

[15] Gunawardena, C.N., Plass, J., & Salisbury, M. (2001). Do we really need an online discussion group? In D. Murphy, et al. (Eds.) Online Learning and Teaching with Technology. Kogan Page, London. pp. 36-43.

[16] Kawachi, P. (2003). Initiating Intrinsic Motivation in Online Education: Review of the Current State of the Art. Interactive Learning Environments, 11(1): 59-81.

Paul Kawachi, Kurume Shin-Ai Women's College, Japan

Dr. Kawachi has been teaching at universities in Japan for more than twenty years. He was recently awarded the AAOU Gold Medal for research excellence, and is currently editor of the Asian Journal of Distance Education <>.
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Author:Kawachi, Paul
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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