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Conflict in virtual learning communities in the context of a democratic pedagogy

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Tugba Ozturk
Publication date2011
Number of pages247
Awarding Institution
Award date30/05/2011
Place of PublicationLancaster
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this thesis, I discuss conflict in virtual learning communities in the context of a
democratic pedagogy. Democratic pedagogies are underpinned with emancipatory
educational values through enabling students to participate in governance of their
learning processes thus taking responsibility for their own learning. In these
communities, knowledge is socially constructed through interactions and negotiations.
The method and content of the learning programme are loosely structured in order to
fulfill the community members' wishes, interests, ideas, and so on throughout the
learning process. Within this framework, my point of departure is that emergence of
conflict among the community members is probable given the diverse and sometimes
clashing individual differences in participation in the negotiation process; in the loose
structure of the programme which brings about uncertainty; and in the nature of the
technological environments in which learning takes place.
To address these issues, I conducted field work with third year undergraduate students
enrolled in a Computer Education and Instructional Technology programme. The field
work consists of two staged studies: pilot study and main study. Respectively, a four
week course for the pilot study and a fourteen week course for the main study were
designed according to learning community principles underpinned with a democratic
pedagogy, and students were introduced with their respective learning communities.
Throughout the field work, I collected data via interviews, focus group meetings, prepost
questionnaires, essays, Moodle logs and field notes.
Drawing on my findings, I discuss the dynamics and the roles of conflict in learning
through a model of conflict which I developed. This model identifies 3 types of
conflict: intrapersonal, interpersonal and socio-cultural. I show how small groups of
students in the community experienced different conflict pathways during the course
of study. The findings show the importance of taking a holistic, processual view of the
emergence of conflict in a learning community. The implications for theory and
practice are discussed.