Traversing planes of learning

Citation Stahl, G. (2012). Traversing planes of learning. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 7(4), 467-473. Springer. Sidewiki
BibDesk PDF




author = {Stahl, Gerry},
date-added = {2013-05-29 11:25:39 -0400},
date-modified = {2013-05-29 15:28:18 -0400},
date-read = {2013-05-29 15:28:18 -0400},
journal = {International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning},
keywords = {knowledge building; collaboration; learning planes; CSCL},
number = {4},
pages = {467-473},
publisher = {Springer},
read = {1},
title = {Traversing planes of learning},
volume = {7},
year = {2012},


My Summary

Learning, cognition, knowledge building - can be analyzed on 3 intertwined units/levels/planes:

  1. individual learning
  2. small-group cognition
  3. community knowledge building

Interconnections of Planes?

  • need to understand how these planes interconnect, but there are only a few empirical analyses of these connections
  • how are the major planes connected?
  • how to investigate at multiple levels of analysis?
  • Stahl is interested in the conceptual connections between these learning levels
    • but what does he mean by “learning levels” here? individual/group/community? OR learning/cognition/knowledge building?

CSCL & Knowledge Building

  • “a central research issue for CSCL”: how does collaborative knowledge building take place?
    • need to understand how individual cognition and societal institutions affect small-group meaning-making processes

Role of “Interactional Resources”

  • Stahl wants to study how resources (knowledge artifacts?? He calls them “designed physical artifacts and sedimented elements of language”) that are generated and/or modified as a result of their interaction with individuals, small-group and community as they engage in shared meaning-making

Links here


Planes of learning in CSCL p. 467

Learning, cognition and knowledge building can be analyzed at multiple units of analysis. p. 467

analyses of CSCL are often conducted on one of three levels: individual learning, small-group cognition or community knowledge building p. 467

CSCL naturally emphasizes providing support for dyads and small groups working together p. 467

In practice, CSCL small-group activities are often orchestrated within a classroom context by providing some initial time for individual activities (such as background reading or homework drill), followed by the small-group work, and then culminating in whole-class sharing of group findings p. 467

typical classroom practices tend to create three distinguishable levels of activity p. 467

teacher sees the group work as a warm-up or stimulation and preparation for the whole-class discussion, facilitated directly by the teacher. p. 467

group cognition tends to be treated as secondary to either individual or community goals p. 467

role of intersubjective learning is foundational in Vygotsky (1930/1978), the seminal theoretical source for CSCL p. 467

Regardless of which is taken as primary, the three planes are actualized in CSCL practice, and the matter of their relative roles and connections becomes subsequently problematic for CSCL theory (Dillenbourg et al. 1996; Rogoff 1995; Stahl 2006). p. 467

While these different units, levels, dimensions or planes are intrinsically intertwined, research efforts generally focus on only one of them and current analytic methodologies are designed for only one p. 467

there is little theoretical understanding of how the different planes are connected. p. 467

There are few explicit empirical analyses of the connections p. 468

The individual unit of analysis is the traditional default. p. 468

psychology and education p. 468

cognitive science, analysis made heavy usage of mental models and representations in the minds of individuals (Gardner 1985) p. 468

“turn to practice” (Lave and Wenger 1991; Schatzki et al. 2001), the focus shifted to processes within communities-of-practice p. 468

Group cognition lies in the less-well-charted middle ground p. 468

meaning-making processes of small-group interaction involve inputs from individuals, based on their interpretation of the on-going context (Stahl 2006, esp. Ch. 16) p. 468

Computer technologies play a central role in mediating the multi-level, intertwined problem-solving, content-acquiring and knowledge-building processes that take place in CSCL settings p. 468

From a CSCL perspective, innovative technologies should be designed to support this mediation p. 468

involves considering within the design process of collaboration environments how to prepare groups, individuals and communities to take advantage of the designed functionality and to promote learning on all planes—e.g., through the provision of resources for teacher professional development, scripted collaboration activities and student curriculum. p. 468

The theory of interconnected planes p. 468

How are the major planes of learning connected; how can we connect investigations at different units of analysis? p. 468

While we are more interested in conceptual connections between levels of learning, it may be helpful to consider the more intuitive physical case initially. p. 468

This transformation of perspective away from a human-centered or individual-mindcentered approach became characteristic for innovative theories in the second half of the 20th Century. It is a shift away from the individualistic, psychological view to a concern with how language, tools and other resources of our social life work. It is a post-cognitive move since it rejects the central role of mental models, representations and computations. The things themselves have effective affordances; it is not just a matter of how humans manipulate models in which the things are re-presented to the mind p. 469

A central research issue for CSCL is how collaborative knowledge building takes place p. 470

main problem seems to be to understand the role of individual cognition and of societal institutions in small-group meaning-making processes p. 470

Figure 3 indicates (without claiming to explain or model) some typical processes on each of the primary planes of learning in CSCL and suggests possible paths of influence or connection, as events unfolding on the different planes interpenetrate each other. This figure is not meant to reify different levels or activities, but to sketch some of the constraints between different phenomena and possible flows of influence p. 470

Some researchers, such as many ethnomethodologists, argue against distinguishing levels p. 470

Social interaction typically takes place in dyads and small groups, so interaction analysis is considered to be oriented to the small-group unit of analysis. However, CSCL researchers also want to analyze the levels of the individual and the culture as such p. 470

How do the identities of participants get affirmed or denied as a result of social interaction? How are cultures transmitted, renewed and modified through social interaction? p. 471

sequential small-group interaction brings in resources from the individual, small-group and community planes and involves them in procedures of shared meaning making. p. 471

This interaction requires co-attention to the resources and thereby shares them among the participants. Such a process may result in generating new or modified resources, which can then be retained at the various planes. p. 471

The resources that are brought in and those that are modified or generated often take the form of designed physical artifacts and sedimented elements of language. We would like to study how this all happens concretely within data collected in CSCL settings. p. 471

Analyses of connected planes p. 471

In the first presentation, Jacques Lonchamp harkens back to the inaugural issue of ijCSCL, where Kienle and Wessner (2006) studied the evolution of the CSCL community through an analysis of conference papers p. 471

new theory of the instrumental genesis of technological artifacts to CSCL (Lonchamp 2006, 2009, 2012) p. 471

Now, he tries to construct an account of this journal itself, as it has evolved over seven years p. 471

The journal paper is a key resource that traverses the planes of knowledge building in the CSCL community, and it can be analyzed and mapped as such. p. 471

The next paper shifts to another professional field, a medical specialty. Markus Nivala, Hans Rystedt, Roger Säljö, Pauliina Kronqvist and Erno Lehtinen provide a careful analysis of how certain resources in this world of work mediate collaborative reasoning. p. 471

they are concerned with how innovative technical artifacts support the kind of co-attention in multi-modal settings that we have seen in other CSCL settings to be necessary to sustain collaboration (Çakir et al. 2009; Evans et al. 2011) p. 471

authors stress that their analysis must span the three planes of mental processes, the activity system and social interaction of the learning situation. p. 471

they are concerned with how the small-group level of the interaction is mediated by the practices and artifacts that draw upon and simultaneously transform the personal skills and the medical institutions p. 472

The analysis of learning in a science museum by Susan A. Yoon, Karen Elinich, Joyce Wang, Christopher Steinmeier and Sean Tucker takes a quite different approach to studying the connection among levels p. 472

he learning intervention involves the use of augmented-reality tools and knowledge-building scaffolds within small groups of students visiting a museum. p. 472

the analytic focus of the experiment is on individual understanding p. 472

community-level science content is mediated by the resources introduced at the small-group level to produce an effect at the individual level. p. 472

Similarly, the study by Chia-Ching Lin and Chin-Chung Tsai starts at a community level in order to investigate effects at the individual level p. 472

this intervention drew upon the collective intelligence of social media—specifically bookmarking—to benefit individual cognition p. 472

The experiment is in the area of information search p. 472

Support for small-group search has unfortunately been under-researched (Stahl 2006, Ch. 7; Twidale and Nichols 1998) p. 472

bookmarks served as resources that bridged the collective and individual p. 472

behaviors of the students in participating in the social activity were coded and correlated with the cognitive engagements of the students at the individual level. p. 472

closing article of the 2012 volume of ijCSCL considers CSCL scripting technology for orchestrating effective mixes of pedagogical activities at the individual, small-group and classroom planes p. 472

An important theme in the journal has been the definition of scripts for structuring interactions across levels p. 472

Pericles Sobreira and Pierre Tchounikine explore an approach to supporting the efforts of teachers to adapt CSCL scripts to their particular classrooms p. 472

The approach described here provides a clear representation of the design structure and envisioned effects of the script resource, so teachers can flexibly plan sequences of activities that traverse planes of learning p. 472