Superficial, rather than true, knowledge interdependence in collaborative learning fosters individual knowledge transfer


We test the hypothesis that superficial knowledge interdependence is more effective in fostering individual learning from collaboration than the true knowledge interdependence often realized by jigsaw-type collaboration arrangements. Based on research on group information-processing, we argue for the benefits of distributing only contextual information, but not core principles between learners, establishing superficial knowledge interdependence. In a computer-supported collaborative learning environment, 78 university students learned about stochastic urn models. Knowledge interdependence was established by systematically distributing learning materials within student triads, so that students either became experts for an urn model, establishing true knowledge interdependence, or for one of the embedding cover stories, establishing superficial knowledge interdependence. Afterwards, all triads worked on the same collaborative tasks, and were exposed to all models. Results show successful learning across conditions, but superior knowledge transfer in triads collaborating under superficial knowledge interdependence. Benefits were highest for low prior knowledge learners.

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