February 15 2013

Valuable Contribution through Collaboration

Student Comments: Moving from Participation to Contribution by Maryellen Wiemer,PhD from Faculty Focus, identifies an interesting distinction between a student’s contribution to class discussion and simple participation. Originally quoted by Gioia, “Participation connotes involvement, sharing and simply taking part. . .”  Contribution implies “…intellectual involvement and sharing of knowledge and knowledge construction. Concentrating on contribution causes people to think about what they are going to say, instead of simply blurting out ill-considered opinions, superficial observation, and irrelevant personal examples. ” (p. 16) Teachers have struggled with this classroom dilemma for decades. Many strategies have been suggested (and employed) in an effort to steer the learning experience toward the best possible outcome; to encourage contribution as opposed to superficial participation.

One could make a strong argument for the use of web2.0 tools and an online discussion model as a means to accomplish these  preferred, higher-quality contributions as outlined by Wiemer and Gioia. The article describes what students typically accomplish when making a contribution to any discussion. These include providing summaries; making observations; integrating concepts; and asking questions that lead to further discussion.  New technology tools such as blogs, wikis, wallwisher, Diigo and others, also achieve this same interactive and collaborative result. Online discussions naturally allow for Gioia’s “think breaks” where participants can take the time necessary to reflect and add worthwhile, thoughtful comments. Successful online environments are not only nurturing collaboration but also  accomplishing valuable contributions with a much larger, authentic audience and engaging students through natural inquiry and creativity. Online “we are hearing contributions that promote understanding, develop knowledge, and result in discussions where student voices dominate”.

Reference: “Student Comments: Moving from Participation to Contribution | Faculty Focus.” Faculty Focus Student Comments Moving from Participation to Contribution Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.


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3 thoughts on “Valuable Contribution through Collaboration

  1. Sister J.

    Thank you for sharing the information in this article. Thinking before speaking is such an important social skill as well. It is also important for students to learn the Higher Order of Thinking; to be able to move through the stages from Knowledge to Understanding to Application to Analyzation to Evaluation and finally to Creation. Without such powers, they will be at a disadvantage as they progress through their years of higher education and on into the work force.

  2. alwaysjan


    What a thought provoking article! Thank you for sharing it. I love the clear distinction between participation and contribution and agree with you totally that Web 2.0 tools facilitate real “contribution” and thoughtful reflection. Many students cannot think quickly and oftentimes teachers do not provide enough “processing” time to allow for real contribution within the classroom setting. Web 2.0 tools allow for that “thinking and processing” time; thus, allowing for more students to actually contribute in a meaningful way.

  3. jewls3761

    Wow, lots of interesting info in this article. Thanks so much for sharing. I am glad, I am not the only one that finds it challenging of get students to engage in the thought process before “participating” in class activities. The definitions of the two activities, participation v contribution is quite clear and I may take the liberty of include this in class discussions at the beginning of new classes. I think I might change the phrasing of my rubrics to reflect the higher level practice of contribution rather than participation. I do believe that Web 2.0 tools will assist in this process of contribution in that the thought process must be engaged before the assignment can be started. Web 2.0 tools provide a much more interesting forum for higher level thinking opportunities for our “digital natives”.


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