What is a script ?
A pedagogical method.
A collaborative script is a pedagogical scenario that students have to follow when they learn together. Instead of free collaboration, a script structures the collaboration process by prescribing different activities, different ways of making groups, and so on. Some of these activities are computer-based, some are not.
What is ManyScripts ?
A tool for authoring and running scripts.
ManyScripts is a web-based environment where teachers may prepare the script they want to use with their students. Later on, the student will login ManyScripts to do the different activities that compose the script. It is somewhat similar to a learning management system such as Moodle, but focused on a few pedagogical methods called scripts.
Why scripting ?
To increase effectiveness.
Empirical studies show that collaborative learning is often more effective that learning alone, often but not always! Some groups do not work well together and do not learn much. The effects of teamwork on learning depend on the richness and intensity of interactions engaged by the group members. For instance, if the teacher asks students to argue about an issue, some groups will engage into deep arguments, raising the key issues that the teacher expects them to address, while other groups will remain at a superficial level, repeating common places. While the former team will benefit from this activity, the latter will not learn much.
How to make sure that both teams will argue intensively? Actually, there is no method that "guarantees" collaborative learning outcomes. Nonetheless, some well-designed activities increase the probability of positive outcomes. For instance, in an argumentation activity, forming groups of students who have conflicting opinions is a "design" feature that increases students' engagement. If students do not have opposite opinions, another "design" choice for inducing conflicting opinions is to provide them with different documents to read, each document containing evidence for opposite viewpoints. One may also ask them to play the role of different characters known for they opposition of viewpoints. These are examples of tricks that teachers may use to "design" the way their students will work together. A script integrates these tricks within a pedagogical scenario, i.e. a sequence of activities.
What is the pedagogical idea behind a script?
There are two principles.
The first principle is that free collaboration is not always productive and hence that defining some structure for activities will scaffold collaborative processes. The degree of structuring required for learning is a debate as old as education: the lack of structure leads to unproductive activities during which student do not learn anything; too much structure prevents students to make some learning experiences. The right amount of structure varies according to the students' mastery of the field and is expected to decrease as learning unfolds.
The second principle is that scripts do not make collaboration easier, but somewhat more difficult. For instance, as ArgueGraph forms pairs of students with opposite opinion, it is for them more difficult to agree on responses than if pairs would be formed with student having similar opinion. Hence, the script requires students to argue more intensively, to explain to each other, etc. Tuning this additional effort – not too low, not too high- is the art of defining collaborative scripts.
Are scripts only for collaborative learning?
Scripts do not only include collaborative learning activities but also individual activities and collective activities. Individual activities are for instance reading a paper before teamwork or writing a summary after teamwork. Collective activities are when all students from the class are gathered with the teacher for instance for an introductory lecture or for a debriefing sessions. During these debriefing sessions, the teacher wil ask students to compare their solutions, to comment upon each others' contributions and will articulate their reflections to the contents of the course. Debriefing sessions are the cornerstone of most scripts: team activities provide students with a meaningful experience but individual or group reflection are necessary to crystallize these insights, to turn experience intro learning.
Why using computers ?
It does not really matter!
Our scripts rely on a software environment. Using computers for running scripts has both advantages and drawbacks. The drawbacks are the management of computer access for all students and the difficulty to modify scripts once teachers have initiated them (some features can be changed, but not all). The advantages mostly concern the logistics of the scripts: the ICE script enables 50 students to share and criticize documents, the ArgueGraph automatically forms pairs of students having opposite opinions. We used computerized-scripts in contexts where these advantages weighted more that the disadvantages. When it was the other way around, we also scripts to be run without computers. With or without computers is not a question anymore, the question is to implement the pedagogical design relevant for the learning objectives.
Are they for distance teaching?
Even if they rely on computers, our scripts are not designed for distance education but for enhancing classroom activities. Scripts includes activities that can be done on-line, for instance at home, but they key activities are designed for situations where all students can meet in a room with their teacher. Variations of the script should be created for distance courses.
When teachers think about using Internet in their courses, they consider providing on-line documents and selected links, a discussion forum, some simulation applets, etc. Scripts broaden the spectrum of activities that bring the benefits of Internet into the classroom.
Can I take holidays during the script?
No, the teacher has a key role to play in "orchestrating" the scenario.
Some activities may occur independently from teachers, but the timing of the sequence, the composition of groups and the nature of assignments often need to be adapted on the fly, due to the numerous unexpected events that occur during a course. More importantly, the role of teacher is central to the collective activities, especially the debriefing activities, and for each activity that requires feedback. Teachers have instead to expect a rather high workload during the script period.
How long does a script runs ?
It depends on the script contents.
Typically an ArgueGraph script with 10 questions will take about 4 hours, but of course this time will vary proportionally to the number of questions. An ICE script may last anywhere between 2 hours and 6 months. Finding the right timing is indeed a difficult aspect of scripts.
Can I use a script for teaching any topic?
Each script is relevant for some learning objectives. The issue is not whether scripts would be more relevant for teaching biology than for teaching mathematics, but more or less relevant for different learning objectives within a domain. For instance, within the same course, an ArgueGraph script could be used for chapter 1 and ICE for chapter 5. This handbook describes the relevance of each script for a set of learning objectives.
Can I use a script with young students?
Not as they stand now.
The scripts presented in this handbook have been designed for university courses and tested in this context. Some activities such as reading scientific papers do not transfer easily to younger students without being adapted. The pedagogical principles of the 3 presented scripts would apply to lower school levels but they certainly require some adaptation.
Can I use a script for corporate training?
We used these scripts in University course but also in seminars with colleagues. For corporate training, we recommend to use them in blended learning courses for which individual phases would be done on-line and team or class phases would be run face-to-face. For instance, the best way to exploit the short time available in a residential seminar would be that students run the ArgueGraph phases 1 and 2 on-line, before the seminar, do phases 4 and 5 at the seminar and complete phase 5 after the seminar. For the ConceptGrid, all phases but the last one, could be run before the seminar. The debriefing activities can be very productive during seminars.
Scripts aim to trigger rich interactions in the teams
A script is a sequence of activities or phases
Some activities are individual, some in small groups and some with the whole class
Some activities use computers, some don't, but the whole script is managed by the software