Bruffee. Collaborative Learning and the â€śConversation of Mankindâ€?
Kenneth Bruffee proposes Collaborative Learning (CL) as a way to explore new conceptual biases in learning. Indeed changes in the philosophic conception of knowledge create a different rationale for CL. Bruffee outlines this by means of these four key elements:
1. Conversation, thought, and knowledge: In this view, intellectual activity usually takes the structure of dialogue. Thought is not an essential attribute of human beings but rather, â€śan artifact created by social interactionâ€? p. 398. In simpler terms, â€śthought is internalized conversationâ€? (p.399). Consequently writing is conceptualized as the re-externalization of internalized conversation, with a sequence: â€śWe converse, we internalize conversation as a thought; and then by writing, we re-immerse conversation in its external, social mediumâ€? (p.400)
2. Normal discourse (ND): ND applies to conversation in a community of agreeing peers: â€śa group of people who accept, and whose work is guided by, the same paradigms and the same code of values and assumptionsâ€? (p.401). In Bruffeeâ€™s conception, when students work collaboratively, they actually â€śconverseâ€? and, as a result, are provided with the social context, common ground, and the kind of community in which ND can happen.
3. Authority of knowledge: Knowledge is the consequence of challenging beliefs and negotiating paradigms through conversation thus CL is a valuable opportunity that allows students to â€śnegotiate their way into that conversationâ€? (p.406).
4. New knowledge, abnormal discourse, and authority:
CL challenges the traditional structure of the classroom and thereby the authority of teachers: they are no longer defined as people in touch with privileged sources of knowledge, but â€śthose members of a knowledge community who accept the responsibility for inducting members into the communityâ€? and, as a result, students have access to the â€śconversation of mankindâ€? (p.410).
Additionally, abnormal discourse occurs when consensus no longer exists in the community of knowledge. If the disruption of normal discourse is successful, it is considered â€śrevolutionary,â€? if not it is considered as â€śkookyâ€? discourse. However, while teachers can only work with tools of ND, abnormal discourse is a device of creativity that could challenge â€śreliance on the canonical conventions and vocabulary of normal discourseâ€? (p.408). The implication for writing instruction â€śinvolves demonstrating to students that they know something only when they can explain it in writing to the satisfaction of the community of their knowledgeable peersâ€? (p.412).