One possible explanation for the failed outcome of this study would be that it was not specifically related to the precise characteristics of the particular CSCL technol- ogy and its attendant pedagogical scenario. This was generally an unruly class that the teacher had difficulty controlling; any change at all from the ‘talk-and-chalk’ mode might have led to disruptive behaviour. Our results do suggest, in fact, that the degree of teacher control over the class was an important factor here (e.g. the teacher-moderated class debates were much more argumentative than the autonomous small-group debates). Another possible line of explanation would be in terms of the fact that history-geography counted little towards the students’ overall mark in the baccalauréat. However, other results and considerations lend cre- dence to roles of specific characteristics of collabora- tion and social interaction using computer-mediated communication as explanatory factors, notably relating to multiple discourse genres, adolescent subcultures, and the social structure of the class.
Learning in schools can be seen as a process of appropriating an educational discourse genre and being able to flexibly articulate this with others, according to the social situation. A first distinction can be made between school genres and everyday genres. The school genre in general is associated with the ability to write and speak standardized language in a way that is considered by the institution to be appropriate to the communicative situation. It also includes general appropriation of explicit and implicit classroom rules, and more general cultural rules (e.g. it is against the law in France for any discourse inciting racism to be produced in any state arena, which includes schools). More specifically, in this study, stu- dents were expected to appropriate general ‘ground rules’ of communication in groups (Mercer 1995), as well as the argumentative genre of epistemic debate
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