Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Tiffany A. Koszalka


Collaboration, Computer-supported collaborative learning, Instrumental case study, Interdependence, Task-related collaborative behaviors

Subject Categories



In teamwork learning settings, tasks are often designed at varying levels of interdependence that requires students to complete the tasks by relying only on their team members sharing resources, knowledge, and skills. However, well-structured tasks do not always guarantee task-related collaborative behaviors will occur and are simply not adequate for us to understand the collaboration process and participants’ actual collaborative behaviors. To deepen our understanding of collaboration and explore how increased collaboration may be promoted in high-level interdependent task settings, this study uses behavioral interdependence as an analytical concept to describe and examine individual students’ actual behaviors as they worked collaboratively on an interdependently-structured engineering design project. Behavioral interdependence is “the amount of task-related interaction actually engaged in by group members in completing their work” (Wageman, 2001, p. 207). The concept of behavioral interdependence helps us to understand students’ task-related collaborative behaviors. However, this concept has received scarce attention in collaboration literature.

This study was set in a context of college engineering students collaborating on an authentic design project. A descriptive, instrumental two-case study methodology was employed to respond to two main research questions: (1) what individual behaviors are observed in project teams when students were working under the high task interdependence condition and (2) what patterns of team behaviors are observed in such a condition. After examining and comparing two newly-formed college student project teams’ collaborative behaviors in solving an interdependently-structured engineering design project, answers to the research questions help explore how team behavioral patterns formed out of, or were affected by, students’ individual behaviors and how behaviors affected team collaboration and performance.

This study resulted in rich descriptions of individual student behaviors and behavior changes, team behaviors and behavior changes, and how individual behaviors were related to team behaviors and overall team collaboration and performance. Results suggested that (1) individual behaviors were closely associated with team behaviors, collaboration, and performance, (2) students’ early behavioral patterns largely predicted their continuous behaviors, (3) urgent deadlines were likely to change behaviors of students who had poor performance in task management and temporal planning, (4) individuals performing better in disciplinary, technical areas tended to have more contribution to and better participation in teamwork, and (5) teams with high levels of behavioral interdependence tended to have better performance in teamwork. Several recommendations are provided for designing instruction in high interdependent task settings such as careful estimation of task completion time considering students’ varying collaboration skills and time management ability levels (task / activity design recommendation), providing suitable scaffolding strategies to support students who are not adequate in technical fields or in skills in areas of self-management, effective communication, and temporal planning (activity preparation recommendation), and paying attention to students’ behaviors at the early stage of their collaboration and providing timely corrective feedback (formative evaluation recommendations).


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