Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership, Research and Counseling

First Advisor

S. Kim MacGregor


This study investigated cognitive and affective outcomes resulting from the use of varying levels of structured peer collaboration (unstructured, structured, and structured with training) in a computer-based learning environment. The study was designed to apply research findings showing a positive relationship between giving explanations and achievement into classroom practice. The sample consisted of 190 students enrolled in nine sections of seventh grade social studies at two middle schools in East Baton Rouge Parish, LA. The schools were selected because they contained large percentages of students at-risk of school failure. Intact classes were randomly assigned to receive one of the three treatments for a nine-week experimental period. Students were assigned by the teachers to groups of three to complete computer-based learning activities that focused on critical thinking and problem solving. Collaboration protocols defining the roles and responsibilities to be used during the learning sessions were given to students in both the structured and training groups. Additionally, the researcher conducted three fifty-minute collaborative learning training sessions with classes receiving the structured collaboration with training treatment. Pre- and posttests were used to measure content area achievement, critical thinking ability, self-esteem and perception of the learning environment. Frequency of specific verbal interactions (explanations given and input suggestions made) was recorded during classroom observation. Significant findings include: (a) training was an effective means of increasing the frequency of giving explanations within collaborative learning groups, (b) students who received structured collaboration (with or without training) scored higher on the social studies achievement test than students in the unstructured groups, and (c) students who received training scored higher than students receiving only structure on the posttest of self-esteem. Students in the structured (without training) groups reported that they felt more in control of the processes within their collaborative learning groups and had greater freedom to set their own instructional pace, while students receiving training in the roles and responsibilities within the collaborative learning groups declined in their perception of the amount of freedom they had to control the pace and style of their learning.