Guidelines for describing collaboration scripts

Quote from Biblionetz:t06219

General rules:

Try to use keywords such as "each", "all", "at least" as much as possible in order to allow for scaling up/down in numbers.

Try to point out interdependencies among components, such as "one case description per group", which is more general and works with any number of groups.

Don’t explain why things are done this way or another way and how things relate to each other. The script should be self-explaining.

First, go through the components of your script. Then begin with specifying the mechanisms.


Specify the kind and amount of resources that need to be prepared in advance. Generally, resources are distributed to the participants, i.e. they exist before interaction starts. Any resources created during the script do not have to be specified in this section. Make sure to specify whether a set of resources is composed of equal or unequal items. One way to do this is to refer to “copies” of something in the case of equal resources. For example, if all participants get the same one case description, say that “x copies of the case description are distributed among the participants” instead of “x case descriptions” which could be interpreted as meaning quite different case descriptions.


Specify the amount of participants needed. Aim for the lowest possible number of participants. If there's a clear maximum value, also specify the range. If more than the minimum number of participants is desirable, also specify the recommended number of participants. For example: At least 2 participants (3 recommended). If the number of participants is dependent on the number of resources, roles, etc., say so. For example: “At least 2 participants (3 recommended) for each xxx”.


Give all groups that are made use of in your script an identifying name, such as “case group”, “boy group”, “expert group”. If you refer to the whole class, use “class group” instead, so it resembles the other groups. Generally, groups are formed when the script begins. Therefore, they are referred to in detail in the sequencing part "group formation".


Specify the names of roles required besides "participant". The default role of each student is "participant", because the role “student” and “teacher” need to be reserved for peer tutoring scenarios. Important: Only make use of roles when the reference to participants does not suffice. For example, if you have a pair of students who both have to summarize a paper, you refer to them as "all participants" or "the members of each group" with the activity of summarizing. However, if one of them is supposed to summarize while the other is supposed to listen, you need to refer to the one as "the summarizer" and to the other as "the listener". Thus, roles need to be used when members within a group engage in different concurrent activities. Roles are also used in order to refer to the way particular participants are different from other participants. For instance, when participants become experts in different fields of study, it makes sense to differentiate between them, e.g. by referring to “all experts of xxx” or “one expert from each field of study”.


Keep this point open until you are all done with the sequencing. Then look at the activities you have used and try to describe each one of them in terms of acitivies that are relevant to learning. Thus, an activity like "writes a summary" becomes "summarizing". You can also become more specific about the activities you want the participants to engage in. For example, it is generally a good idea to keep the sequencing description short, so you write "participants discuss xy". In the activities section, you can then specify what kind of discussion you intend them to have and what kind of activities you expect them to engage in, e.g. "comparing, critiquing, formulating arguments". In some cases, the sequencing description already gives sufficient detail on activities in the script, so you don’t need to specify them in any further detail.

Group Formation:

Unless the participant characteristics make group membership obvious (e.g. a “boy group” is composed of all boys), describe how group are to be formed, giving details on group size (min/max/desired), amount of groups (min/max/desired) and their group composition (such as males & females, nations, expert/novices, etc.). Typically, groups are formed with a specific goal on group size or amount, but not size and amount. It helps to decide whether size or amount is more important when you think of how you would handle a number of students that is larger than the one you need. For example, having 8 participants that you would like to group to groups of three, you have to decide whether the 7th and 8th will make a third group (in this case, you aim for a specific group size) or will be spread over two groups (in this case, you aim for a specific amount of groups). If group formation is dependent on other variables such as resources (e.g. "case descriptions"), then try to formulate it like this: "For each xxx, form one group of ...".

Component Distribution:

Consider each of the available components (in particular resources and roles) and describe which components are distributed over participants or groups of the script and how they are distributed. As in group formation, consider what would happen if you have more components than participants/groups (like 5 roles for 4 participants in each group) or less than needed (like 3 roles for 4 participants). Would that be allowed and how would you handle this? You could an expression like "evenly distributed" or "balanced" which means that a surplus of components is spread over all participants/groups so that groups have almost the same amount. Note that component distribution only states how components are initially distributed. Whether or not they are redistributed later on is stated in the sequencing section.


In sequencing, you try to convey what is happening in a short hand form that gives barely enough details to understand how the script is to be conducted. First of all, consider the kinds of loops or repetition in your script. Do the participants traverse through a series of elements in a set (e.g. chapters in a book, levels in a game)? Do the participants rotate roles or resources? Do you find a repetition with changes that resembles fading (in/out)? Once you have discovered these loops, try to distinguish between different social planes, i.e. classroom, small group (if you have more than one kind of small group, you need to distinguish these, such as the case group, theme group and country group in the Universanté script) and solitary (individual) work. Always try to describe the interaction within this social plane, i.e. if you refer to members of a small group, describe it as "Within each small group, all participants ...". If you refer to the interaction between small groups describe it as "Within the class, all small groups ...". Thus, the "within" clause defines the scope of activities that you talk about. This way, you use a group perspective to describe the sequence of events that takes place. Now you assemble the sequence of blocks by stating the social plane and (if needed) the kind of repetition, such as “Within each country group, and for each theme group in turn, …”.

Then use activities that produce something, such as “write a summary”, “propose a solution”, “fill out a questionnaire”, “give an argument”, etc. This way, you can refer to a product when you describe the next steps in the activity sequence, such as “reads the summary”, “critiques the solution”, “corrects the questionnaire”, “reponds to the argument”, etc. Using such products allows you to describe some kind of “data flow” between the activities. Be careful to stick to the names and terms introduced. The general structure of the sequence begins with specifying the social plane that you are referring to (e.g. “Within the theme group”) and then specifying the activity on this social plane. If there is a sequence of activites, form a paragraph like:

Within each country group, …
  • … the members of the theme group present their fact sheet
  • … everbody else provides comments on the fact sheets *… the members of the theme group modify their fact sheet according to the comments

If group formation or component distribution takes place in a later phase of the script rather than at the very beginning, you can separate the sequencing into phases. This is also helpful if you need to refer to a specific section of a script that gets repeated. Also, use meaningful names for phases rather than numbers.

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Topic revision: 15 Aug 2006, doebeli
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