Learning with peers : teams in an online course for teacher professional development
- Students can learn from and with peers, and the role of peers varies with the learning environment and with which tools are available. This research examines voluntary online classes that involve teams of participants. The courses were created by Stanford's Understanding Language Online group as professional development for teachers and were available for free. This study describes how social connections and interactions within the class predict course completion. However, an intervention designed to improve teammates' social connections and encourage goal interdependence had no effect on course completion, but rather caused participants currently working as teachers to leave their teams at a higher rate. This dissertation contributes to three scholarly areas. First, it extends the study of peer effects in learning to focus on the structures and contexts that can improve the effects of peer contact. Second, it examines how learners interact in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). In particular, students work in teams on the NovoEd platform. Third, it contributes to our understanding of adult learning and teacher professional development. The dissertation contains an extensive synthesis of theory and evidence on teams and peer effects across academic fields. The main argument, based on this literature review and the results of the study, is that peer effects on learning are shared goods produced through learner interactions, and thus benefits from peers are subject to collective action problems. This implies that there are potential gains from redesigning the structures and contexts around peer learners in ways that encourage voluntary contributions. That is, productivity gains are possible through technologies---for instance, curricula, online tool design, and social contexts---that allow and encourage peers to meet, advise, and motivate each other. This mechanism is especially valuable because peer learners are an abundant, underused resource in a massive course. The study highlights relevant research findings and examples of technologies moving in this direction, and it recommends further study into the design of social online learning. Lastly, this dissertation discusses the particular difficulties that MOOC environments pose for researchers, whether they are conducting experiments or performing causal inference. The attrition and anonymity inherent in these voluntary courses pose problems, but the distributed control of structure and content raise unexpected problems. An appendix explores methods for peer effects in this medium and describes the NovoEd algorithm for assigning teams that was in place during the courses studied.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Williams, Elizabeth A
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Statement of responsibility
|Betsy A. Williams.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2016.
- © 2016 by Elizabeth Anne Williams
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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