Virtual science learning environments in future school: the viewpoint of small group’s collaborative learning process

Postdoctoral researcher Tuike Iiskala, professor Marja Vauras and senior researcher Riitta Kinnunen, University of Turku

This presentation has two main foci.

First, the focus is to describe a virtual science learning environment, ViBSE (Virtual Baltic Sea Explorer), for future schools as part of the larger SciLes-project (Science Learning Environments for the Future Schools: Scaffolding Disciplinary Engagement, Co-Construction and -Regulation of Disciplinary Understanding through Digital Tools).

The purpose of the environment is to provide a bridge between the school and the authentic world of science by positioning students as researchers and fostering their adoption of the objectives, methods and practices that guide the authentic research of professional scientists.

Second, the focus is to present findings of how high group-level learning outcomes are associated with high-level collaborative cognitive engagement process and metacognitive regulation of that process. Upper secondary school students (n = 118) worked in small groups (39 groups of 2-3 peers) in the ViBSE environment during three sessions (75-90 min each) and at the end of the process prepared a group’s presentation.

The scientific quality of the presentation as the group’s outcome was assessed by science experts. Each group’s collaborative learning processes were videotaped in all sessions, and real time processes (collaborative cognitive engagement and metacognitive regulation) were analysed from the videotapes.

In this presentation, the collaborative learning processes of one high- and one low-outcome group is compared in terms of cognitive engagement and its metacognitive regulation. The importance of groups’ cognitive engagement in science world practices, as the groups make progress towards disciplinary expertise, is discussed. Similarly, the important role of the level of the small groups’ cognitive collaborative processes and their metacognitive regulation is highlighted.