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Ke Fang's Ph. D Defense : Constructing Co-Meaningfulness: Collaborative Learning Across Boundaries - Studying Innovation Communities of Designers and Scientists

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Ke Fang's Ph. D Defense : Constructing Co-Meaningfulness: Collaborative Learning Across Boundaries - Studying Innovation Communities of Designers and Scientists

This thesis studies an emerging collaborative learning model among innovation communities of designers and scientists, which we call the Collaborative Learning Across Boundaries for Open Wicked Problems, or simply: CoLAB. The "Open Wicked Problems" indicate the pressing problems of our time which resist either clear-cut definitions or optimal solutions, such as the fast growing AI technology and its problematic ethics or the huge change of the economy and work model after the pandemic crisis. At the same time these problems are also "open" and accessible to learners who learn through trying to resolve them directly. New learning initiatives emerge in our universities and schools, e.g. design and science students aggregate in workshops to collaboratively learn across discipline and experience boundaries for attempting to resolve these "open wicked problems". How do we understand the process of the new learning? What are the key difficulties in learning, and how to overcome them? Understanding CoLAB from a practice-based perspective is key to better facilitate this emerging model, which nowadays plays an increasingly significant role in education and the learning sciences. For this purpose, the author, as a researcher/practitioner of CoLAB, adopts the constructivist grounded theory based on an in-depth case study and a long term ethnographic observation. From coding, categorizing and conceptualizing, we generate the concept of "Co-Meaningfulness" that casts light to the key process in CoLAB: that learners find it not enough just communicating at the level of "Project" they currently work on but they have to communicate and negotiate which part of the project is more"meaningful". Their learning is essentially a process of not only constructing their joint project but also constructing their "Co-Meaningfulness". The process of constructing "Co-Meaningfulness" is then studied with both socio-cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives, which generates a framework of conceptual and visual tools for analyzing CoLAB. The concept and framework of Co-Meaningfulness emerges and visualizes the underlying Co-Meaningfulness process of CoLAB, making the "invisible" "visible". Basing on a practice-rooted perspective and a structured analysis, this thesis proposes a novel way to understand and analyze CoLAB which opens opportunities for future research.

Key words : Co-Meaningfulness, Collaborative Learning, Boundary-crossing, Learning Sciences, Wicked Problem, Grounded Theory