Online Collaboration as Transformative Experience A critical reflection on my teaching assumptions

About me

My name is Lin Lu. I grew up in Beijing, China. I am now a PhD student at the Ohio State University studying Learning Technologies.


This is the course I have been teaching for three sessions. This course introduces essential learning strategies and technologies to guide students to successful online learning experiences.

The Teaching Episode: Online Collaboration

During Week 3, each student signed up to a group of 4-5 and worked together on a case study. Sarah, the main character in the case story, experienced collaboration issues such as online communication, role taking, product quality, and group work commitment. The group task was to identify the issues and analyze the potential improvement within a week. Each group will present their analysis during a synchronous session.

Critical Reflection

Using a theoretical tool for assumption reflection

As the goal of the course was to trigger transformative change - to be a self-regulated learner, I used a theoretical framework to reflect the consistence between the transformative learning goal and my teaching practices.

This a conceptual framework for transformative groups by Schapiro, Wasserman & Callegos (2012). The figure is published in the Handbook of Transformative Learning (Taylor & Cranton, 2012)
The figure was created base on Table 22.1 Types and Characteristics of Transformative Groups (p. 362) in the Handbook of Transformative Learning (Taylor & Cranton, 2012)

Identifying the assumptions I held

  1. Basis for group membership and relationship: Students have common interest in personal growth of self-regulation strategies and resources because they are registered students in the class.
  2. Primary experience: Students can naturally use personal relevant experience outside this class while discussing with others.
  3. Locus of change: To become a self-regulated learner is a both intrapersonal and interpersonal change
  4. Form of reflection: Self-reflection for changing learning habits should aim at raising the awareness of strategy use and group process towards collaborative achievement. It was not necessary to critically and inter-personally reflect on assumptions or subconscious within groups.
  5. Dialogic processes: Critical dialectical discourse was not necessary for group work.

Questioning my assumptions

Although the goal of the course was in nature a goal for transformative learning, the collaboration activities were not designed with sufficient components scaffolding this individual transformative growth. Individual's life experiences outside the group were not explicitly emphasized as the part of discussion. Individual's assumptions about learning were not examined. Critical dialogic processes were almost absence among the peers. Without being given critical reflection structure, it is naive to assume that transformative change on learning habits can happen.

Updating assumptions

  1. Basis for group membership and relationship: Learners have to recognize the common interest in becoming a self-regulated learner by dialogues.
  2. Primary experience that is the object of reflection and dialogue: Individual perceptions and life experiences outside of the group is the object of reflection and dialogue.
  3. Locus of change: To become a self-regulated learner is not only an intrapersonal mental process but also changing perspectives of interpersonal relationship.
  4. Form of reflection: Critical reflection on assumptions and images from our subconscious is the practical form of transformative process. This process is driven by group experience.
  5. Dialogic processes: Critical dialectical discourse is necessary for group work. Social presence and teaching presence should be a foundation affording the effectiveness of critical discourse within group.

Implications for collaborative activity design

  • Groups should be given time long enough for recognizing and negotiating on the common personal interest and establishing norms.
  • Case should provide information that is rich enough for assumption challenges, critical inquiries and transformation.
  • Guide learners to aware and accept the positional perspectives shaped by life experience. Instructor should encourage bringing personal experiences into group work.


Taylor, E. W., & Cranton, P. (2012). The handbook of transformative learning: Theory, research, and practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Created By
Lin Lu


Created with images by freephotocc - "cup of coffee laptop office" • Pexels - "ancient architecture beijing" • 422737 - "team table playmobil"

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