Date of Conferral







Stephanie Cawthon


Social learning plays a critical role in cognitive apprenticeship, community of practice, and knowledge production theories. Gunawardena's interaction analysis model, which provides a means of evaluating discourse for social construction of knowledge, is comprised of five phases: (a) sharing and comparing, (b) disagreement, (c) negotiation and co-construction of new knowledge, (d) testing of knew knowledge, and (e) use or phrasing of new knowledge. There is a paucity of research that has empirically explored social construction of knowledge, especially in an extended semiformal asynchronous graduate learning experience. This study explored two research questions: whether social construction of knowledge took place, and if so, how such construction occurred. The study used data from two quarters of a five-quarter graduate level, asynchronous research laboratory allowing students in psychology programs to work on a faculty research project. This study was a qualitative secondary data analysis of 1,739 postings by 17 students and one instructor. The original transcripts were converted to a database for coding using the interaction analysis model. Numerous uses of phase II, disagreement, and above demonstrated that social construction of knowledge occurred and provided a method of understanding how such construction took place. Students socially constructed knowledge by expressing disagreement or dissonance and then worked together to synthesize new knowledge. As a critical component of situated learning, understanding social construction of knowledge provides impetus for pedagogical improvements for increased learning. This in turn can provide students with necessary knowledge and new ideas to apply toward positive social change in their communities.