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Behavior and Reasoning

Page history last edited by Ayush Gupta 14 years, 4 months ago

Modeling the coupled dynamics of student behaviors and reasoning during collaborative learning activities


Investigating how students' non-verbal behaviors (posture, gesture, vocal register, visual focus) influence and are influenced by the substance of their reasoning during collaborative group work. Our analysis reveals a dynamic coupling of students' behaviors, epistemic framings (ways of approaching knowledge generation) and physics reasoning. This has instructional implications, by identifying easy-to-spot behaviors that tend to indicate the presence of productive student reasoning.


This work is leading to another very interesting line of argument: Where to find the mind: Identifying the Scale of Cognitive Dynamics (Paper submitted to ICLS (Accepted), Cognitive Science conference (Under review))


There are ongoing divisions in the learning sciences between perspectives that treat cognition as occurring within individual minds and those that treat it as irreducibly distributed or situated in material and social contexts. We contend that accounts of individual minds as complex systems are theoretically continuous with distributed and situated cognition.  On this view, the difference is a matter of the scale of the dynamics of interest, and the choice of scale can be informed by data.  We offer heuristics for empirically determining the scale of the relevant cognitive dynamics in the context of students collaboratively working on physics worksheets.  We illustrate these heuristics in two contrasting cases, one in which the evidence supports attributing cognition to a group of students and one in which the evidence supports attributing cognition to an individual. (**)


Behavior Clusters

In watching video data of student groups during introductory physics tutorials, we notice a remarkable thing.  During each 45 minute period the members within each group tend share similar clusters of behavior.  The whole group usually transition together between these behavior clusters.  We have identified four distinct clusters and assigned them to theory-neutral color codes: green, blue, yellow, and red.


Cluster name Behaviors Looks like:

sitting upright

eye contact

hands gesturing

Interrupting speech



Hunched over

Eyes down

Hands down/writing

Intermittent speech





Shifting in seat

Eyes around the room

Hands fidgeting / touching face

Laughing / smiling



Sit straight up

Eyes on TA

Hands down or smaller gestures

Intermittent speech



These four behavior clusters are exhibited across groups the groups are in at least one of these clusters for almost all of the time spent in tutorial.  They can be stable for minutes at a time, and they switch abruptly, on the order of five seconds.  Often the transition in behavior is precipitated by one student exhibiting behaviors different from the cluster the group is in at the time.  We call these "bids".  For example, often a group will be exhibiting the blue cluster (hunched over, looking down at worksheet) when suddenly one student sits up and looks around at the rest of the group.  Often such a bid will facilitate a transition of the rest of the group into green mode as they engage in discussion.  See figure below:


Figure: student at bottom left making a 'bid' for a transition in group behavior




Conlin, L. D., Gupta, A., & Hammer, D. (In Press). Where to find the mind: Identifying the Scale of Cognitive Dynamics. Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences 2010.

Conlin, L. D., Gupta, A., Scherr, R. E., & Hammer, D. (2006). The Dynamics of Students’ Behaviors and Reasoning during Collaborative Physics Tutorial Sessions. Proceedings of the Physics Education Research Conference 2006, 24(15), 4.  arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0803/0803.0323.pdf 

Scherr,R.E., & Hammer,D. (2009). Student behavior and epistemological framing:  Examples from collaborative active-learning activities in physics. accepted to Cog. & Instr.: Preprint

Comments (2)

Ayush Gupta said

at 9:27 pm on Jul 6, 2008

Luke, Rachel, David -- Do modify the description or elaborate as you see fit

Luke said

at 3:18 pm on Oct 16, 2008

Is it okay to put these paintbrushized images of tutorial groups up on the site? Feel free to change the description as you see fit...

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