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Effects of peer-challenge support on learning during on-line small group discussion

, The Pennsylvania State University, United States

The Pennsylvania State University . Awarded


This study proposes a peer-challenge support framework intended to facilitate effective peer interactions in on-line discussion and thus enhance learning. This framework assumes that novice students who lack domain knowledge and metacognitive skills can be supported in generating meaningful interactions at an early stage of learning. In turn, the resulting questions and feedback can enhance peers' metacognition, such as reflecting and monitoring, which can allows them to refine and restructure their understanding.

The purpose of this study was to test this peer-challenge support framework by investigating the effects of providing externalized, on-line support for generating effective peer-challenges during on-line small group discussion, thereby enhancing learning in college students.

A field experimental time-series control-group design was employed as a mixed model for the research design. Thirty-nine students from an on-line introductory class on turf grass management offered by a northeastern land-grant university participated in the study. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected from five successive sessions of on-line small group discussion, ten sessions of open-ended essay exams, three sessions of multiple-choice exams, an on-line survey, and a telephone interview throughout a sixteen-week semester.

The quantitative results revealed that on-line peer-challenge guidance helped learners to generate significantly more challenges. However, the guidance did not improve the quality of challenges, further interactions, and learning outcomes. Possible reasons for the failure of showing the guidance effects on learning might be students' limited use of the guidance, their relatively high level of prior experience, and a small sample size.

The qualitative results based on the interview data were consistent with the peer-challenge support framework. Students tended to experience difficulties in generating challenges for their peers when they perceived a lack of knowledge. Importantly, they perceived that the use of on-line guidance helped them to improve their questions in both quantity and quality when they had difficulties in generating challenges. Furthermore, the students who received meaningful challenges from their peers tended to experience cognitive dissonance which triggered them to reflect upon their understanding, to articulate their lack of knowledge, and to seek necessary information until they built up enough knowledge to be able to generate satisfying answers.


Choi, I. Effects of peer-challenge support on learning during on-line small group discussion. Ph.D. thesis, The Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved February 23, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

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