ABSTRACT: Collaborative diagramming during problem based learning in medical education: Do computerized diagrams support basic science knowledge construction?
To examine how collaborative diagramming affects discussion and knowledge construction when learning complex basic science topics in medical education, including its effectiveness in the reformulation phase of problem-based learning. Methods: Opinions and perceptions of students n = 70 and tutors n = 4 who used collaborative diagramming in tutorial groups were collected with a questionnaire and focus group discussions. A framework derived from the analysis of discourse in computer-supported collaborative leaning was used to construct the questionnaire. Video observations were used during the focus group discussions. Results: Both students and tutors felt that collaborative diagramming positively affected discussion and knowledge construction. Students particularly appreciated that diagrams helped them to structure knowledge, to develop an overview of topics, and stimulated them to find relationships between topics. Tutors emphasized that diagramming increased interaction and enhanced the focus and detail of the discussion. Favourable conditions were the following: working with a shared whiteboard, using a diagram format that facilitated distribution, and applying half filled-in diagrams for non-content expert tutors and\or for heterogeneous groups with low achieving students. Conclusion: The empirical findings in this study support the findings of earlier more descriptive studies that diagramming in a collaborative setting is valuable for learning complex knowledge in medicine.