Collaboration script

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Draft 1

Editor: Pierre Dillenbourg, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Contributor: Frank Fischer, Department of Psychology, University of Munich


A collaboration script is a set of instructions designed for structuring collaborative learning.

Scripting collaborations is a pedagogical method which instead of leaving team members completely free, prescribes the organization of the task and the organization of the collaborative process. More specifically, collaboration scripts specify team composition, roles differentiation, activity steps and modes of communication.

Comments on the history

The word ‘script’ was inspired by Schank’s notion of script, developed in artificial intelligence: “a structure that describes appropriate sequences of events in a particular context. A script is made up of slots and requirements about what can fill those slots. The structure is an integrated whole, and what is in one slot affect what can be in another.” (Schank and Abelson 1977, p.41).

The notion of “collaboration script” emerged from the observation that collaborative learning is not always effective and that there is a need to design teamwork in such a way that productive interactions emerge such as explanations, argumentation and mutual regulation. This expression has been used to designate scaffolds structuring face-to-face collaboration (O’Donnell and Dansereau 1992) and computer supported collaboration (Dillenbourg 2002).

Related terms

Macro-script, micro-script, Internal collaboration script, external collaboration script, integrated script, overscripting, pedagogical scenario, lesson plan, classroom script. Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL)

Translation issues


Disciplinary issues

Although it has been inspired by AI research, the term “script” as used in this definition does not relate to the term “script” used in programming (eg. ‘PERL script’).

The term “script” is used in cognitive psychology where it refers to “highly specific memory structures that remain relatively fixed in situation in which the script is activated” (Kollar et al. 2006). In AI as well, “a script is a predetermined, stereotyped sequence of actions that defines a well-known situation.” (Schank and Abelson 1975, p.41). In contrast, collaboration scripts can vary in the degrees of freedom they attribute to learners to structure their collaboration (Kollar et al. 2006).

A series of term have been coined to differentiate several characteristics or features of collaboration scripts:

- “Macro-script” prescribes collaboration in a coarse grain, i.e. as a sequence of activities. The best-known example is the JIGSAW script developed by Aronson et al. (1978).
- “Micro-script” prescribes the way learners interact with each other: for instance, if John proposes and argument, Suzanne should next proposes a counter-argument. Micro-scripts are somehow dialogue models – many of them argumentation models- that team members are expected to internalize through their practice.
- “Integrated script” refers to macro-scripts that not only include collaborative activities, but also individual activities (reading, summarizing …) as well as whole-class activities (lecturing, debriefing). With this extension, the concept gets very close to the general notion of pedagogical scenario, lesson plan or classroom script.
- “Internal collaboration script” refers to the knowledge an individual has about a recurring collaborative situations. Internal collaboration scripts are seen as guiding an individual’s understanding of and acting in these situations. Internal collaboration scripts may interact in complex ways with external collaboration scripts (i.e., instructional guidance for collaboration) (Kollar et al., 2006).
- “Overscripting” refers to the risk that a high level of script rigidity may spoil the natural richness of collaboration.

Key references

[1] Aronson E., Blaney N., Sikes J., Stephan C., Snapp M. (1978) The Jigsaw Classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publication.

[2] Dillenbourg P. (2002) Over-scripting CSCL: The risks of blending collaborative learning with instructional design. In: Kirschner P. A. (ed.) Three worlds of CSCL. Can we support CSCL (pp.61-91). Heerlen: Open Universiteit.

[3] Dillenbourg P., Hong F. (2008) The mechanics of CSCL macro scripts. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning. 3 (1) 5-23

[4] Fischer F., Mandl H., Haake J. M., Kollar I. (eds.) (2007) Scripting computer-supported collaborative learning – cognitive, computational, and educational perspectives. New York: Springer.

[5] Kollar I., Fischer F., Hesse F. W. (2006) Collaboration scripts - a conceptual analysis. Educational Psychology Review. 18(2) 159-185

[6]O'Donnell A. M., Dansereau D. F. (1992) Scripted cooperation in student dyads: A method for analyzing and enhancing academic learning and performance. In R. Hertz-Lazarowitz and N. Miller (eds.) Interaction in cooperative groups: The theoretical anatomy of group learning (pp. 120-141). London: Cambridge University Press.

[7] Schank R.C., Abelson R. (1977) Scripts, Plans, Goals, and Understanding : An Inquiry into Human Knowledge Structures. Hillsdale, N.J. : Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 256 pages.