Exploring Collaborative Agreement in Interactions

Nneamaka, Chigbo Onyinyechukwu (2017) Exploring Collaborative Agreement in Interactions. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The benefits of play and collaboration in children’s learning and development cannot be overemphasized. Through play, children learn many social skills and how to be creative but children’s play is not always harmonious as it relies on power relations between groups. As children grow, they build peer groups where they prefer to play with same-sex peers and may display gender-typed behaviours, which grows stronger as they grow into adolescence. On the other hand, working in small groups enhances children’s problem solving skills and motivation, encourages development of skills of critical thinking and communication and allows longer retention of concepts. To reap the benefits associated with collaboration, there is need for children to develop and practice skills for effective collaboration. Collaborative games provide platforms for children to practice the skills required for effective collaboration however, in some collaborative games where players are expected to collaborate and learn the skills associated with collaboration, competition still occurs. This can be detrimental especially in the classroom settings as it can increase hostility between students and weaken the intrinsic motivation to learn due to focus on winning. In this research, the concept of Enforced Collaborative Agreement (ECA) is introduced and explored. ECA is a type of interaction whereby collaborative agreement is required in order to play a digital game. It is believed that ECA games would make co-located children play together in an equitable and inclusive way thus allowing them to contribute and participate equally when working together. The aim of the research is to understand the behaviours participants aged between 11-16 years old grouped in pairs and within co-located spaces exhibit to reach agreement while playing an ECA enabled game using a range of interaction methods. While several research works have been undertaken to explore collaboration in enforced situations none has explored collaboration in the way described in this thesis (using a range of data gathering approaches and focusing on how participants reach agreement). Additionally, this research explores the effects of ECA on the participants’ enjoyment, one of the dimensions of gameplay experience and highlights the importance of ECA in enabling collaborative interactions. A mixed methods and user-centred approach was taken where established methods such as observation of the participants’ behaviours during interaction, survey (fun Toolkit and questionnaire), logging participants’ actions and unstructured interview were used. The key contribution of this research is the understanding of ECA as a concept and methods to study it. Additional contributions are the understanding of how participants collaborate to reach agreement within one part of the larger space where ECA can be applied and associated design guidelines for designers wishing to design games/applications that support ECA.

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