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Mäkitalo-Siegl, Kati; Häkkinen, Päivi; Leinonen, Piritta; Järvelä, Sanna (2002): Mechanisms of common ground in case-based web discussions in teacher education. In: Internet and Higher Education, Vol. 5, No. 3: pp. 247-265


Previous studies suggest that before the participants in Web-based conferencing can reach deeper level interaction and learning, they have to gain an adequate level of common ground in terms of shared mutual understanding, knowledge, beliefs, assumptions, and pre-suppositions (Clark & Schaefer, 1989; Dillenbourg, 1999). In this paper, the main purpose is to explore how participants establish and maintain common ground in order to reach deeper level interaction in case-based Web-discussions. The subjects in this study consisted of 68 pre-service teachers and 7 mentors from three universities, who participated in the Web-based conferencing course for eight weeks. The written discussion data were analyzed by means of a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The results suggest that in order to establish common ground it is essential that the participants, especially as fellow students, not only show evidence of their understandings through written feedback, but also provide support to their peers in their replies. Presenting questions also signals the participant’s willingness to continue the discussion, which is essential for maintaining common ground.