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Maastricht Graduate School of Governance (MGSoG) / United Nations University (UNU-MERIT)

Diversity in Communities of Learning


The Influence of Hierarchical Position on Individuals’ Activity &
Performance
Martin RehmA, Wim GijselaersB, Mien SegersB
A Maastricht Graduate School of Governance / United Nations University (UNU-MERIT)
B School of Business and Economics (Department of Educational Research and Development)

Background
Results
Training and development are pivotal aspects in contributing to the
1 2 3 4 5 6
competitive advantage of organizations. In this context,
1. Hierarchical Position 1 0.19** 0.00 0.20** 0.24** 0.16*
Communities of Learing (CoLs) have been suggested as a valuable
2. Total Contributions 1 0.42** 0.98** 0.81** 0.07
tool to enable employees to engage into sharing experiences,
3. Café-Talk Forums 1 0.30** 0.30** -0.12
developing new ideas and creating new knowledge that can help
4. Content-Related Forums 1 0.82** 0.10
to improve business processes. (e.g. Armstrong & Anis, 2008; Paloff
5. Statement Length 1 0.59**
& Pratt, 2003). 6. Average Statement Length 1
*
Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed)
Some researchers suggest that hierarchies constitute a major **
Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
obstacle to these collaborative learning processes. However,
past empirical research has either overlooked the role of differing Table 1: Correlations - Hierarchical Position and Activity Measures
hierarchical backgrounds, or focussed on teams that have continuous
1 2 3 4
face-to-face contact. Consequently, there still remains considerable
uncertainty about how online collaborative learning processes are 1. Hierarchical Position 1 0.15* 0.20** 0.23**
** **
affected by hierarchical positions of participants. (e.g. Contu & 2. Participation Grade 1 0.30 0.70
**
Willmott, 2003; Romme, 1996). 3. Final Exam 1 0.47
4. Final Grade 1
*
Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
**
Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
Aim of Research
Table 2: Correlations - Hierarchical Position and Performance Measures
This research provides important insights on patterns of
communication and their results within online CoLs that can help
Café-Talk Content-Realted Total
to anticipate participants’ behavior and device activities that enhance Forums Forums Contributions
knowledge diffusion and creation. Cluster M SD M SD M SD
"Low" 1.49 1.27 8.66 6.10 9.99 6.65
These patterns and results are analyzed based on participants’ "Middle" 1.90 1.95 11.10 7.68 12.83 8.27
contributions within discussion forums and their individually attained "High" 1.39 1.20 13.36 9.06 14.46 9.05
"Stars" 10.17 5.56 39.42 14.35 48.00 15.30
performance scores.
Table 3: Cluster Profiles – Activity Level

Setting 5,00

• Global organizational training program (“Economics”) 4,50

• 14 weeks of e-Learning 4,00

• 30 CoLs - 235 participants 3,50


Average Contributions

- 80 lower level management - “Low” 3,00

- 89 middle level management - “Middle”


"Low"
2,50 "Middle"

- 66 higher level management - “High” "High"

2,00

• Asynchronous discussions forums:


- Café-Talk 1,50

- Content-Related (real-life tasks) 1,00

0,50

Methods 0,00
“Café-Talk” Content- “Café-Talk” Content- “Café-Talk” Content- “Café-Talk” Content- “Café-Talk” Content-

• Independent variable: 1) Level of activity in discussion forums; 2) Driven Driven Driven Driven Driven
Interval 1 Interval 2 Interval 3 Interval 4 Interval 5
Performance level of individual participants
• Dependent variable: Hierarchical position (“Low”, “Middle”, “High”) Figure 1: Average Contributions per Interval of Time and Type of Forum

• Controlling for: 1) Value diversity (24 item questionnaire on a 7-


point Likert scale); 2) Informational diversity (25 multiple choice
questions); 3) Social category diversity (age, gender and ethnicity Conclusion
collected via registration form); 4) Level of hierarchical diversity The hierarchical position of participants is positively related to their
within CoLs (Shannon Equitability Index). level of activity within CoLs (H(2) = 8.705, p = .013)
• Instruments: Spearman’s rho measure ; Nonparametric Participants’ hierarchical position is positively related to their
hypotheses tests; Two-step cluster analysis performance level (H(2) = 15.759, p < .001)
• N = 235 participants; “Low”: 80 (34%); “Middle”: 89 (37.90%); Two-step cluster analysis revealed a “duality of lower level
“High”: 66 (28.10%); Average age: 43.90; over 80 nationalities; management” a small sub-group of “Stars” leads CoLs irrespective
54% were female. of their hierarchical backgrounds and outperforms their colleagues

References
Armstrong, S. J., & Anis, M. (2008). Experiential Learning and the Acquisition of Managerial Tacit Knowledge. Academy of Management Learning &
Education, 7(2), 189-208.
Contu, A., & Willmott, H. (2003). Re-Embedding Situatedness: The Importance of Power Relations in Learning Theory. Organization Science, 14(3),
283-296.
Paloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2003). The virtual student: A profile and guide to working with online learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Romme, A. G. L. (1996). A Note on the Hierarchy-Team Debate. Strategic Management Journal, 17(5), 411-417.

Correspondence to: Maastricht Graduate School of Governance / Maastricht University


Martin Rehm
United Nations University (UNU-MERIT)
martin.rehm@maastrichtuniversity.nl P.O. Box 616
T +31 43 388 4662
http://martinrehm.posterous.com 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
F +31 43 388 4499