Andrew Chiarella (Photo)

Andrew Chiarella

Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology
Athabasca University


Broader interests

My research focus is on the empirical study of learning and instruction in traditional school subjects (e.g., reading comprehension, mathematics, science) and, in particular, the development of educational technologies. I am generally interested in distributed cognition as it pertains to human-artifact interaction; how interacting with objects external to the person (e.g., physical artifacts, symbolic and graphical representations) affects learning and reasoning.

Research topics 

  • Social annotation, social software for education
  • Technology-enhanced learning 
  • Collective behaviour and intelligence; Distributed and extended cognition
  • Complex adaptive systems; self-organizing systems

Current research interest 

How can social software be used to create self-organizing, digital artifacts that scaffold learners? In particular, how can social annotation systems be developed to support readers?

General research questions

1How do social text signals evolve and stabilize?
2a) Do the social text signals that are generated in this manner (self-organized) reflect the main ideas in a text?

b) Are they similar to the signals an author might provide?
3a) In what ways and to what extent do social signals affect or influence readers?

b) How do readers react to resources that are being dynamically altered and evolve in response to collaborative activity?
4a) How do social text signals affect readers’ comprehension of texts as measured by comprehension questions and other products (e.g. essays and summaries)?

b) Are these emergent, socially created phenomena useful aids to the learners?
5a) What combinations of psychological and social variables (e.g. social influence and conformity, knowledge and skill diversity/heterogeneity, and group size) and software variables (e.g. parameters for aggregation functions) lead to the most beneficial self-organized, emergent phenomena in collaborative learning tasks?

b) Under what conditions does this form of indirect collaboration lead to sub-optimal or poor outcomes (at the group and individual levels)?