Ron Chi-Wai Kwok

Department of Information Systems, City University of Hong Kong

PhD Dissertation Title:
Effect of Group Support System and Facilitation on Knowledge Acquisition

Based on the success of using Group Support System (GSS) to support collaborative work, recent research focuses on the application of GSS in academic organizations as GSS is recognized as an effective cognitive tool that can enhance collaborative learning. Although GSS research findings on collaborative learning show that GSS may be used to improve learning under certain situations, there are still many questions that need to be answered. In particular, facilitation effect on GSS-supported learning has received less attention.

Facilitation support has been applied in teaching and training. It has been regarded as a critical dimension in self-directed learning, group learning and organization learning, in a synchronous and distributed environment. In today's academic and business organizations, the role of teacher and trainer shifts from instructor to facilitator who guides the learners to interact with each other by orchestrating the process and structure of the learning interaction. As GSS is recognized as an effective tool that can enhance teaching and training, the facilitator's role may be changed in the GSS-supported learning environment. This dissertation investigates the moderating effect of facilitation intervention on the application of GSS to knowledge acquisition under experimental conditions.

More specifically, this dissertation investigates the effect of two structuring interventions (i.e. GSS and Facilitation) on knowledge acquisition. A GSS encourages knowledge acquisition at group level via software tools that can enable an effective collaborative learning environment where individuals can communicate, organize, and evaluate knowledge acquired and shared by the group. A facilitator is a person whose role is to maximize information and knowledge sharing among individuals by structuring group interaction and providing feedback during the meeting.

In this dissertation, a research model is proposed. It is to explain the enabling effect of GSS and Facilitation on group processes, two important attributes of effective collaborative learning process, and individual knowledge structures. The design of an empirical study is also proposed to test the predictions of the model. According to our model, a 2 X 2 factorial design was used to assess the main and interaction effects of GSS and Facilitation on knowledge acquisition. For measuring the effect of GSS and facilitation on group processes and the two attributes of effective learning process, a questionnaire was developed using a process of conceptual construct validation and reliability, and pre-tested with a pre-experiment study. Group members' verbal comments and participation were video recorded, and their written comments were captured electronically by the GSS tool. Concerning the measurement of learning outcome, the concept mapping technique was used to assess the acquisition of individual structural knowledge, and the commonality of knowledge among group members at the end of the learning session.

Results of the experiment indicated that the GSS-supported groups experienced improved process gains and alleviated process losses. It led to a higher level of cooperation in learning and a higher level of structural knowledge and knowledge commonality. The results also suggested that content facilitation improved quality of feedback leading to a higher level of structural knowledge. It enhanced the commonality of knowledge among group members. The results also indicated that the interaction effects of GSS and content facilitation were non-additive. All of the above results show that GSS and content facilitation are effective learning tools to enhance individual knowledge acquisition.

This page was last modified on June 24, 1999 by Ron Kwok