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Fateh, Shaghayegh
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Middle Tennessee State University
Having discussions and working together in groups with other learners is the indicator of the collaboration aspect of engagement. Collaborative engagement can be fostered through active learning approaches, since they provide more opportunities for interaction among learners. In Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) classrooms, small groups of peers discuss and verbalize ideas with each other to reach a shared understanding. As students discuss ideas and share ideas with others, they can hear different viewpoints and develop understandings that may not have been possible individually. This dissertation considers this approach toward learning, focused on two big ideas: 1) the English Learner (EL) student population and their engagement in small group conversations 2) the impact of converting a POGIL class to a hybrid format on students' engagement in small group conversations. 1) the English Learner (EL) student population and their engagement in small group conversations Increasing numbers of immigrants in the United States have led to an increase in the number of ELs in American classrooms. A typical challenge for ELs in American science classes is that they are unfamiliar with the norms and expectations of class and may not feel valued and accepted. Instructors may also have lower expectations for them, affecting their learning and achievement. Due to these difficulties, English learners might have a different experience and engage in small group discussions differently than non-English learners in a POGIL-based. Our analysis indicated that ELs are less likely to engage in discursive moves that lead to shared understanding than non-ELs, which could indicate missed opportunities for knowledge construction. In addition, we provided evidence that EL populations may need to be redefined and subgroups within them considered. According to our findings, the EL population can be categorized into subgroups based on students’ educational backgrounds. The defined subgroups of ELs engaged differently in small group conversations and those who spent more time in the US educational system participated more actively in conversations. 2) the impact of converting a POGIL class to a hybrid format on students' engagement in small group conversations. Nowadays, distance education plays an important role in the educational system. Transactional distance theory argues that distance education creates a psychological separation between students and their instructors, preventing students from interacting and being engaged. Studies suggest that distance education could benefit from active learning approaches to reduce transactional distance. In this study, a hybrid POGIL class with half of the students attending in person and the other half participating remotely was investigated to see how this particular active learning approach influenced students' interactions. Despite the active learning approach in this design, analysis of students' conversations showed that they were sometimes less engaged in group discussions when interacting remotely, suggesting that the transactional distance for remote students was present. Student participants and the course instructor attributed this pattern to more distractions in remote classes, difficulties in engagement caused by the nature of online courses, and less accountability. Upon analysis at the individual student level, we found that the patterns we observed for the entire class were not the same for each student. From student participants’ and the instructor’s point of view, sometimes students' personality (e.g., some people are comfortable sharing their ideas with others but some people do not) and their attitudes toward the course could have a greater impact on how they engaged in small group discussions than whether they were in person or remote. To understand the dynamic behind these observed patterns and optimize the learning experience in distance education, more research is needed on student characteristics, group dynamics, facilitation, and task types.
Science education, Chemistry