Exploring the role of off-task activity on students' collaborative dynamics

Jennifer M. Langer-Osuna*, Emma Gargroetzi, Jen Munson, Rosa Chavez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Off-task activity is ubiquitous in classrooms, yet little understood. Building on recent work that illustrates the utility of off-task activity to disrupt relations of power among students, this article explores the potential functions of off-task participation during collaborative mathematics problem-solving. We examined 56 instances of off-task participation across 12 collaborative problem-solving sessions in a fourth grade classroom during a collaborative inquiry unit on place value. Results show that the majority of instances functioned to support the collaborative problem-solving process. Further, off-task participation often succeeded in shifting collaborative dynamics after on-task bids to shift dynamics failed. Off-task activity seemed to introduce new storylines that served as discursive tools to navigate local social hierarchies. We close by situating an understanding of the resources that students bring into collaborative learning through off-task activity within conversations on inclusive pedagogies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)514-532
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Collaborative learning
  • Elementary school
  • Mathematics
  • Off-task participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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