Citekey: @Chai2006a

Chai, S. C., & Khine, M. S. (2006). An Analysis of Interaction and Participation Patterns in Online Community. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 9(1), 250–261.



Although the KBC model draws on the constructivist-oriented theories, researchers directly involved in developing KBC argued that the KBC has moved social-cultural framework beyond the acquisition of knowledge and appropriation of practices to that of creation of knowledge. (p. 2)

Scardamalia, Bereiter, and Lamon (1994) have criticized the current Vygotskian’s view as overly focused on the internal cognitive structures of the learners while neglecting the social structures that facilitate knowledge advancement. The key element that distinguishes the KBC from the social-cultural framework is its emphasis on critical and creative work on ideas. This focus shifts the attention of a learning situation from internalization of existing practices and knowledge to the co-construction of new knowledge. (p. 2)

it is through discourse that knowledge or ideas are constructed, negotiated and improved (Lamon, Reeve, Scardamalia, 2001). (p. 3)

Analysis models of CSCL (p. 3)

One of the earlier attempts to analyze content is the model proposed by Henri (1992) that includes five dimensions and their categories as shown in Table 1. (p. 3)

Another model proposed by Newman, Webb and Cochrane (1996) was designed to measure critical thinking (see Table 2). (p. 3)

Background of the Study and Methodology (p. 5)

This study is a post-hoc analysis of the online interactions that were produced by a group of 11 in-service teachers and the tutor. (p. 5)

Research Questions The research question for this study is “how do teachers build knowledge collaboratively?” This is broken down into the following specific research questions: 1. What is the pattern of participation among the teachers? 2. What is the pattern of interaction among the teachers? 3. To what extent are the teachers building knowledge collaboratively? (p. 6)

The log files were generated by subjecting the database to the Analytic Toolkit® (Burtis, 1998) (p. 6)

Reflective notes written by the researchers after the lessons supplemented the data. (p. 6)

Data Analysis (p. 6)

Results and Discussion (p. 6)

On average, the database grew by 25.6 notes per week with each teacher contributing about 2.33 notes in a week. The number of words written by each teacher in a week is about 300. The results suggest that the participation rate is relatively high although it is difficult to make accurate comparison with other studies because of the different contexts involved. (p. 7)

For the present study, the facilitator posting is 2.4 times (5.63 notes) that of the teachers’ postings. This result may indicate that active participation by the facilitator is crucial in developing and sustaining discussion among teachers. (p. 7)

The average percentage of notes read for this study is 48%. (p. 7)

Dividing the total number of notes by the total number of clusters yields the average length of threads. (p. 7)

There are 42 unconnected notes in the database and 30 clusters of connected notes. (p. 7)

There are 250 notes in total (including the facilitator’s notes) the mean note cluster size for this study is 3.47. The result implies that for every note posted, it received two to three responses. This result suggests that the discussions are not adequately sustained (Lipponen et al., 2003). (p. 7)

Social Dimension of Participation (p. 8)

Based on the data in Table 5, the density of the network in term of participants building on each other’s notes is computed using social network analysis. (p. 8)

Based on these premises, the density of Table 6 is computed to be 0.67. Lipponen et al. (2003) considered a density of 0.37 from his study as high. The density of the present study is therefore quite high. (p. 8)

Based on these findings, it seems that the teachers are well connected with each other, indicating that the community is fairly well established. (p. 8)

Knowledge Building Dimension (p. 9)

The proportion of Phase 1a occurrences (49) to the rest of the coded occurrences (179) is approximately 1:4. The result indicates that the teachers were able to built-on to each other’s ideas. (p. 10)

However, as illustrated by the bar chart and the pie chart in figure 3, most knowledge building activities were limited within Phase 1, i.e., sharing and comparing information. (p. 10)

The results seem to indicate that higher phases of co-construction of knowledge are difficult to achieve. Reviews of studies on teacher networked-based learning had also yielded similar results (see Zhao & Rop, 2001). While the technological affordances of networked environment seems to provide an avenue for collaborative learning, there seems to be a higher possibility for the participants to share information and perhaps request for elementary clarification. (p. 10)

There are several possible reasons that could account for the results obtain is this study. First, detecting dissonance and building on ideas is a cognitively demanding task. (p. 10)

A related study on teachers’ perception of learning in this environment suggested that time constraint is a real issue for the teachers (Chai, Tan & Hung, 2003). (p. 10)

Second, criticizing each others’ practices maybe culturally not an appropriate behaviour since it may be perceived as confrontational. The cultural norms of niceness among teachers may have discouraged the teachers from engaging in critical discussion (Lampert & Ball, 1999). (p. 10)

Third, teachers’ friendship and collegiality may work in a way that instead of providing a trusting relationship for critical dialogue, it reduces teachers’ willingness to engage in activities that could be questioning the validity of certain beliefs (Kelchtermans, 2004). (p. 11)

Fourth, teachers were traditionally treated as implementers of education decisions made outside the classrooms. The shift of role from knowledge consumer to that of knowledge producer is not an easy one as most graduate students may testify. (p. 11)

Summary (p. 11)

This study examined the pattern of participation and discourse analysis of the online interaction among the online interactions of a group of 11 teachers in the context of professional development. The results indicated that the community established through the combination of face-to-face and online interactions was rather cohesive. The teachers’ participation in the online environment in terms of both reading and responding to each other’s notes was also relatively high and their interactions were task-focused. Based on the results obtained, it seems fair to conclude that the teachers had managed to appropriate some practices of the KBC. However, the depth of interaction was still lacking even when the social conditions exist. (p. 11)

The results of this study suggests that cohesiveness at the level of distributed reading and built-on is a necessary but insufficient condition for in-depth knowledge building. For in-depth knowledge building discourse to happen within the context of teacher professional development, the teachers need to challenge the cultural/professional norm of niceness; be able to detect gaps in understanding; have adequate knowledge about the context of another teacher’s classroom; have the necessary social skills in putting across the critical comments; and assumes a new identity of knowledge producer. (p. 11)

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