Collaborative Networked Learning: A Guide/Eliciting and Contributing Feedback

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Eliciting and Contributing Feedback: How are we doing?[edit]

There is a need to elicit feedback. Feedback is crucial to the creation of meaning in a social context; it is the basic element of the process which allows learners to validate their knowledge with others. As part of a face-to-face group individuals are constantly reading the nonverbal communication such as gestures, facial express, voice tone,and change in body position. In essence, the communicators are monitoring the interaction looking for feedback that says: "how things are going." These feedback messages are both verbal and non-verbal. Communicators become accustomed to 'reading' the nonverbal messages for level of understanding, agreement, or meaning that is shared among the participants in the interaction. In many collaborative networked environments, the non-verbal messages are reduced or non-existent. Participants develop special strategies for eliciting and sharing feedback in networked environments. For example, in an electronic network involving only text-based computer mediated communication (CMC) the feedback is more restricted than in other networks. The lack of feedback and replication of the conversational conditions that exist in other forms of collaboration is particularly disturbing to new users. However, early research conducted by Kerr and Hiltz (1982) indicated that this changes over time and that experienced users are often annoyed by having to interact at a time and pace that someone else chooses. To compensate for the lack of immediate feedback, collaborative networks have created special interaction (space) where participants can just chat or exchange instant messages in text, audio or video. Some electronic learning network globally have created “lounges” where learners can see who is on-line and exchange messages with others on-line and receive immediate feedback.

Contributing feedback is a shared responsibility.[edit]

While any participant may assume responsibility for eliciting feedback and confirming meaning from other participants, all members of the learning group share the responsibility for clarification and confirmation. Each individual participates actively to let others know their current level of understanding or acceptance. David and Roger Johnson (1987 pps.112,146, 156-158.) offer some general advice for providing feedback which will help create a group context which supports learning. Based on their research:

  • Effective feedback is as immediate as possible; rather than allowing misunderstandings to multiple and continue.
  • Through a series of exchanges, members check for understanding regularly.
  • Effective feedback focuses on description and personal interpretations of messages rather than judgment or evaluation.
  • Effective feedback focuses on the particular message or behavior of the participant rather than imagined personality traits.
  • Effective feedback is personal such as I perceive... or I understand... rather than impersonal such as The general perception is..... or The level of understanding is ......
  • Effective feedback provides only the amount of information that can be understood or is meaningful at the time, rather than a dissertation.
  • Effective feedback is specific and focused rather than general and abstract. It is meaningful within the present context of the group communication.

Feedback about group process is important.[edit]

One often neglected aspect of feedback is the collaborative process itself. The Johnsons suggest that members of a group who are attempting to engage in collaborative learning focus feedback on group process as well as the specific content of the group efforts. Note that research is currently on-going in this area. The unique characteristics of electronic mediated environments require special consideration of the effects of variables such as delay and the organization and display of feedback messages as part of a communication system. Additional research into the nature of feedback and interaction in networking learning groups is needed.) in collaborative group learning environments, they offer the following ground rules for providing effective feedback. Furthermore, Elaine Kerr (1985, p. 16) has argued:

" Small task-oriented groups need to occasionally pause to talk about the process itself: participant rates, the tone of the conversation, conflicts, feelings about the process, impacts, observations and problems of using the system, equipment..." Creating a special time or electronic space for this type of feedback is vital to the on-going success of the collaboration.

If the team is to continue to collaborate and grow as a group, then it will need to focus on its own interaction as a group. Sharing observations about process in the group can help group members become aware of where the group is collectively and how individuals have contributed to that direction. Observation of this nature provides the feedback necessary for groups to improve their overall productivity and satisfaction.

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