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Constructive Controversy Essay

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Updated: Jun 11th, 2018


The impact of face to face (FTF) and computer motivated controversy (CMC) on motivation and achievement is studied by Roseth, Saltarelli and Glass. The study seeks to elucidate perspectives of constructive controversy that many previous researchers have failed to. Constructive controversy is where individuals’ argue the different views in order to arrive at an agreement that integrate the best evidence and reasoning of both parties (Roseth, Saltarelli & Glass , 2011).

Theories Contributing to Constructive Controversy

Constructive controversy has two theories that account for its relational processes. The first theory is the Social Interdependence Theory which stipulates that the interaction of the individuals determines the results of the interaction.

Under social interdependence, cooperative perceptions were strongly associated with increasing relatedness, interest, competence and value (Rosseth et al, 2011). Individualistic perceptions on the other hand resulted into decreases of the same. If the individuals interactions is structured cooperatively the motivation and achievement increases.

Secondly there is the self determination theory which hypothesizes that the students’ psychological needs are interrelated and the lack of satisfaction of one will impact on the other needs. These needs include the need for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. The two theories are however different in the relational processes that underlie the constructive controversy to achieve the motivation.

Secondly, only social interdependence theory specifies a mechanism that may be used in enhancing the students’ motivation, achievement and interpersonal relationships. Self determination only specifies the conditions necessary but does not detail how to create these conditions.

Results and Findings

Motivation: According the findings of the study, of the four perfectives of motivation, relatedness and value were greater under face to face compared to asynchronous CMC (Rosseth et al, 2011).

The increase in cooperative perception causes increases in motivation under Face to Face and synchronous CMC while significant decreases were noted under individualistic perceptions under asynchronous CMC. According to self determination theory, motivation increased because of the fulfillment of students’ self determination needs under FTF and synchronous CMC, decreases of motivation resulted from the lack of satisfaction of the determination needs (Rosseth et al, 2011).

Achievement: Achievement of students in online courses is lower compared to face to face. This is shown by the comparatively higher attrition rates in online courses. Increased motivation and achievement result from cooperative and individualistic perceptions fulfilling relatedness needs as under FTF and synchronous CMC.

Medium: Medium has no significant effects the students’ performance. This confirms that choice medium of medium does not matter in learning. Good communicators convey social cues by adapting to whatever form of CMC available.


The study is limited in that it had not control for students’ perceptions of CMC technologies. The extent of non significant sample error is therefore unclear. The study had limitation on the length of the constructive procedure. The additional time may enhance achievement by affording more time for processing and review of concepts. Shorter time will demand good time management skills thereby reducing cooperative perceptions, relatedness, interest and value.


The study clearly shows how social interdependence is more effective over self determination in ensuring achievement of goals and motivation of learners.

The study elaborates the positive effects of cooperative learning thereby encouraging its use. Motivation, achievement and social interdependence significant improved with constructive controversy. The results however showed that the choice of media has no effect on the learning process.


Roseth C,. J,. Saltarelli A,. J,. and Glass C,. R,. (2011). Effects of Face-to-Face and Computer-Mediated Constructive Controversy on Social Interdependence, Motivation, and Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 103, No. 4, 804–820 DOI: 10.1037/a0024213.

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