Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

John Peters

Committee Members

Ralph Brockett, Walter Cameron, Howard Pollio


This study described and documented collaborative learning by students in two sections of a graduate education course. Ethnographic observations were made of the two groups and participants were interviewed about their experiences in their respective groups. Analysis of fieldnotes from the ethnographic observations and interview transcripts revealed three categories of themes that described the process of collaborative learning in the two groups: 1) group process, 2) learning process, and 3) group facilitation. Each category had multiple themes. The group process category contained the themes of cohesion, trust and respect, confusion and frustration and conflict; the learning process category contained the themes of discourse, engagement, and questions; the group facilitation category contained the themes of facilitator actions and participants as facilitator. Participants in the course described their experiences in terms of the interaction of these themes, such that the themes created a patterned gestalt of the process of collaborative learning.

The findings describe collaborative learning as a multifaceted, complex process that can be understood in terms of knowledge construction, relationships, and participants' role in facilitating their own and others' learning experiences. Knowledge construction involved knowing that, knowing how, and knowing within conversationally developed contexts created by the participants. The findings indicated that the participants were able to observe their own learning experiences in terms of relationships formed in their respective groups. Their ability to see themselves learning from within these relationships contributed to their overall learning experience and learning outcomes.

The results were discussed in terms of implications for future research and practice. For example, the results suggest that facilitators of collaborative learning attend to the relationships formed by participants and to the role that these relationships play in the knowledge construction process. Researchers also need to study such influences if collaborative learning, especially as they are exhibited in diverse environments.

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