2. Multimethod approach for analyzing students’ motivational profiles and their participation in virtual collaboration

Marjaana Veermans, Jiri Lallimo

Abstract


In new complex learning settings, the conventional research methods are not entirely applicable, and new means for investigation are needed. The aim of this study was to apply multimethod approach to explore how 43 students with different motivational and individual profiles participate in a distance-learning environment. Three types of questionnaires were used, and a selection of learners’ postings for the group assignments was analyzed. A detailed analysis was conducted for three cases, which showed that students with different motivational profiles had different participation patterns, and yet, they ended up at same grading level of course performance. This may indicate that inquiry-based learning makes possible for the students to participate in varied, but still productive ways. However, more exploration of the qualitative data is needed to confirm these findings. The qualitative analyses of the study offered valuable information about the dynamics of students’ participation.

Nowadays learning settings are understood as complex learning environments where numerous factors occur in relation to the other factors (e.g., De Corte et al., 2003). In these learning settings, the conventional research methods are not entirely applicable, or at least not sufficient by themselves, and new means for investigation are needed (Winn, 2002). More process-oriented and context-sensitive information could help to understand how students with differing characteristics adapt to a new learning environment and how the features of the learning environment affect students’ participation and involvement. The importance of examining how different students perform in general in new learning environments has also been stressed by Hartley and Bendixen (2001), who emphasized the need to examine how the individual characteristics of learners influence their success in new environments. The need for new methods is also acknowledged in educational psychology in general, where emphasis has shifted towards investigating meaning of the learning context (e.g., Anderman & Anderman, 2000). This acknowledgement of a need for new approaches can be seen as an influence of the situative (or social-cultural) approach (e.g., Greeno, 1998) that stresses the importance of social context in learning.


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