Macrocognition in Collaboration: Analyzing Processes of Team Knowledge Building with CoPrA

I. Seeber, R. Maier and B. Weber

Group Decision and Negotiation 22(5):915–942, 2013.

Abstract. Sophisticated collaboration software allows teams that are dispersed in space and time to work together. Nevertheless, to reach their common goals, distributed teams—and the professional facilitators who support them by intervention techniques—are faced with the communication challenges arising from dispersed settings, including task coordination and effective information exchange. When distributed teams use collaboration software, however, traces of their collaboration are left behind. These traces provide an underused source of data which can be analyzed and be used to inform the design of interventions aimed at improving collaboration in distributed teams. This paper investigates the untapped potential for understanding collaboration, and in particular, the macro-cognitive processes of team knowledge building. These processes rely on information shared and knowledge structures developed by team members which are also referred to as team cognition. We performed a qualitative content analysis applying the COllaboration PRocess Analysis technique, CoPrA, and a framework for measuring team knowledge building. Communication data was collected from 18 participants assigned to six distributed teams. While working collaboratively on a problem-solving task teams were supported with synchronous collaboration software. The results show that by using a cognitive perspective on teams, all the hypothesized processes of team knowledge building could be identified in collaboration traces. Moreover, our analysis shows that CoPrA enables us to identify key characteristics of (1) team behavior, e.g., whether teams are rather solution-oriented or problem minded, show consensus-oriented behavior, withhold evaluative arguments, discuss ideas in breadth and/or depth, or spend much effort on coordination as well as (2) behavior of team members, e.g., who show non-participation, are willing to share or predominantly guide coordination. Future research could adopt this approach to improve our understanding of the dynamics of collaboration patterns and its effects on team performance to inform collaboration facilitation in distributed settings.

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Barbara Weber