|Ph.D Dissertation Abstract
My doctoral dissertation examines the nature of student interactions in threaded bulletin board discussions. The focus of the study is to identify what, how, when and which interactions advance critical thinking (e.g. state position, state agreement or disagreement, provide supporting arguments, evaluate arguments, define evaluation criteria, etc.). Particular attention is focused on interactions that address opposing and conflicting viewpoints, and how such interactions drive critical thinking. The premise of this study is that threaded bulletin boards enhances students' ability to express divergent viewpoints and gather, share and evaluate supporting arguments. I have developed an interaction model of critical thinking for coding group discussions, and have also developed methods to examine, identify, and measure patterns of student interactions (event sequences) observed in student interactions and message threads. My research lays the groundwork and methodology for studying how new designs and instructional interventions can improve critical discussions and processes of group communication and group decision-making. The research also provides a methodology for examining and understanding how different communication technologies affect communication processes and outcomes.