Interactive Learning

The research programme "Interactive Learning " aims to uncover and explain factors that affect the quality of learning and instruction processes in education and training throughout a person’s lifetime.

Our research focuses on the interaction between the learner and his or her learning environment. Learning is taken to be an interactive and communicative process, in which the learner and a number of agents in the learning environment (e.g., teachers/managers, educational material and media, fellow students/colleagues, knowledge domain) exert mutual influences that contribute to the learning result. The research tradition at Utrecht can in part be credited for the central role of the concept of interactivity, defined as reciprocity in learning processes; the tradition also links up with current socio-constructivist ideas on instruction, situated learning and shared and distributed cognition. Interactivity is a common concept in our research on learning material (texts and new media), collaborative learning, teacher-learner interaction, and on-site learning. Interactivity is on the one hand a function of the adaptivity of the learning environment to the learner's needs and on the other hand, a consequence of monitoring and control by the learner.

The central research question can be formulated as:

What factors contribute to the improvement of learning and instruction and how can their contributions be explained?

 Our research is a combination of experimental studies (e.g. the aio-dissertation of Van Boxtel “Collaborative Concept Learning” of physics concepts, May 2000), design experiments (e.g. the aio-dissertation of Veerman “Computer-supported Collaborative Learning through Argumentation”, May 2000; NWO-research projects in collaboration with the Freudenthal Institute on mathematics learning), and descriptive research (observation and interview studies in schools and companies and the use of questionnaires). We use both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. A special interest in the analysis of dialogues and protocols is closely coupled with our emphasis on interactive learning between peers (e.g. Erkens developed a computer program for semi-automatic protocol analyses: MEPA).

Research at Utrecht has a long-standing tradition of linking research to practice. This mission has led us to contribute to the theory of Educational Sciences by making our research output available to the international scientific forum, and contribute to the practice of education by making the output available to local and national educational policy makers, the educational support system and schools.