Boundaries and roles: Positioning and social location in the Virtual Math Teams (VMT) online community

  • Sarmiento J
  • Shumar W
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As research in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) expands its understanding of joint knowledge building, new perspectives on how social reality is constructed become necessary. Our research concentrates on the longitudinal or diachronic trajectories of Virtual Math Teams (VMT) at The Math Forum, an online community supporting mathematical inquiry. We investigate how these virtual teams constitute themselves while engaged in building collaborative knowledge. We describe as well, through the lens of positioning theory, the interactional activities that allow participants to situate themselves, others, and their collective knowledge resources over time. Our analysis suggests that positioning work is central to constructing a sustained problem space and illustrates how the configurations of positions and resources that co-participants put forward through interaction might change across a team's trajectory. These changes constitute and are sensitive to the participants' evolving reasoning routines and other forms of joint participation uniquely related knowledge building. In addition, we show that the VMT activity system affords participants a level of disciplinary engagement which is partly illustrated by active engagement in positioning work. Finally, we suggest that an interactional approach to roles and participation provides a fruitful framework for researchers, designers, and practitioners interested in understanding and creating engaging CSCL interactions. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Collaborative learning
  • Computer assisted instruction
  • Cooperative learning
  • Intergroup dynamics
  • Longitudinal analysis
  • Role taking

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  • Johann W. Sarmiento

  • Wesley Shumar

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