Designing and building an on-line community: The struggle to support sociability in the inquiry learning forum

  • Sasha A. Barab
  • The ILF Design Team
  • James G. Makinster
  • Julie A. Moore
  • Donald J. Cunningham


In this paper we describe the sociotechnical structures of the Inquiry Learning Forum (ILF), a Web-based professional development tool designed to support a community of inservice and preservice mathematics and science teachers creating, sharing, and improving inquiry-based pedagogical practices. Founded in our previous research and consistent with our pedagogical commitment, the technical structures of the ILF have been designed around a “visiting-the-classroom” metaphor. This decision was based on our belief that teachers need to be full participants in, and owners of, their virtual space for meaningful interaction to occur. The hallmark of this environment is that teachers with a broad range of experience and expertise can come together in an on-line environment to observe, discuss, and reflect on pedagogical theory and practice anchored to actual teaching vignettes. The goal of this paper is to share how we instantiated our pedagogical commitments and to describe the challenges we faced during the design, development, implementation, and analysis of the ILF. Toward this end, we walk the reader through our design and implementation process, highlighting our change in focus from usability to sociability issues, and movement from conceiving the ILF as an electronic structure to a sociotechnical interaction network.


Professional Development Preservice Teacher Science Teacher Inservice Teacher Discussion Forum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Active Learning Practice for Schools. Collaborative curriculum design tool. [On-line]. Available: line.cfm. Retrieved: August 16, 2000.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, P.E., & Krockover, G.H. (1997). Beginning science teacher cognition and its origins in the preservice secondary science teacher program.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, 633–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1993).Benchmarks for science literacy NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Asayesh, G. (1993). Staff development for improving student outcomes.Journal of Staff Development 14(3), 24–27.Google Scholar
  5. Barab, S.A. (in press). Commentary: Human-field interaction as mediated by mobile computers. To appear in T. Koschmann, R. Hall, & N. Miyake (eds.),Computer supported collaborative learning. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Barab, S.A., Cherkes-Julkowski, M., Swenson, R., Garrett, S., Shaw, R.E., & Young, M. (1999). Principles of self-organization: Ecologizing the learner-facilitator system.The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8(3&4), 349–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barab, S.A., & Duffy, T. (2000). From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen, & S.M. Land. (Eds.),Theoretical foundations of learning environments (pp. 25–56). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  8. Barab, S.A., Hay, K.E., Barnett, M.G., & Keating, T. (2000). Virtual solar system project: Building understanding through model building,Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(7), 719–756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Barab, S.A., Hay, K.E., Barnett, M.G., & Squire, K. (2001). Constructing virtual worlds: Tracing the historical development of learner practices/understandings.Cognition and Instruction, 19(1), 47–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Barab, S.A., MaKinster, J., & Scheckler, R. (in press). Designing system dualities: Characterizing online community. To appear in S. Barab, R. Kling, & J. Gray (Eds.),Designing for virtual communities in the service of learning Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bielaczyc, K., & Collins, A. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice. In C. Reigeluth (Ed.)Instructional design theories and models (pp. 169–292) Mahwah, HJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Brown, A., Ash, D., Rutherford, M., Nakagawa, K., Gordon, A. & Campione, J. (1993). Distributed expertise in the classroom. In G. Salomon (Ed.)Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (pp. 188–228). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning.Educational Researcher, 18, 32–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brown, J.S., & Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational learning and communities of practice.Organizational Science, 2, 58–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brown, J.S., & Duguid, P. (1998). Organizational knowledge.California Management Review, 40, 90–111.Google Scholar
  16. Chaney-Cullen, T., & Duffy, T. (1998). Strategic teaching frameworks: Multimedia to support teacher change.Journal of the Learning Sciences, 8, 1–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chism, N.V.N. (1985, April).The place of peer interaction in teacher development: Findings from a case study. Presented at the 1985 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  18. Clark, C. & Lampert, M., (1986). The study of teacher thinking: Implications for teacher education.Journal of Teacher Education, 37(5), 27–31.Google Scholar
  19. Cuban, L. (1993).How teachers taught: Constancy and change in American classrooms, 1890–1990. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  20. Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). Quality teaching: The critical key to learning.Principal, 77(1), 5–11.Google Scholar
  21. Duffy, T. (1997). Strategic teaching framework: An instructional model for a constructivist learning environment. In C. Dills and A. Romiszowski (Eds.),Instructional Development State of the Art. Volume 3: Paradigms Englewood, NJ: Educ. Technology Press.Google Scholar
  22. Duffy, T.M., & Cunningham, D.J. (1996). Constructivism: Implications for the design and delivery of instruction. In D. Jonassen (Ed.),Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 170–198). New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan.Google Scholar
  23. Duffy, T., & Jonassen, D. (Ed.), (1992).Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Englewood, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum and Assoc.Google Scholar
  24. Fahey, L., & Prusak, L. (1998). The eleven deadliest sins of knowledge management,California Management Review, 40, 265–276.Google Scholar
  25. Greeno, J., & Goldman, S. (Eds.) (1998).Thinking practices in mathematics and science learning. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  26. Grossman, P., Wineburg, S., & Woolworth, S. (2000).In pursuit of teacher community. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  27. Guskey, T.R. & Huberman, M. (Eds.). (1995).Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices, New York: Teachers College.Google Scholar
  28. Hatano, G., & Inagaki, K. (1998). Cultural contexts of schooling revisited: A review of The Learning Gap from a cultural psychology perspective. In S.G. Paris & H.M. Wellman (Eds.),Global prospects for education: Development. culture and schooling (pp. 79–104). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heaton, R., & Lampert, M. (1993). Learning to hear voices: Inventing a new pedagogy of teacher education. In M.W. McLaughlin, J.E. Talbert, & D.K. Cohen (Eds.),Teaching for understanding: Challenges for practice research, and policy (pp. 207–239). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  30. Hewson, P.W., Tabachnick, B.R., Zeichner, K.M., & Lemberger, J. (1999). Educating prospective teachers of biology: Findings, limitations, and recommendations.Science & Education, 83(3), 373–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Huinker, D. (1996). Teaching mathematics and science in urban elementary schools.School Science and Mathematics, 96(7), 340–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huinker, D., Coan, C., & Posnanski, T. (1999, May).Voices of reform: Infusion of standards-based mathematics and science teaching in an urban district. Presented at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, CAGoogle Scholar
  33. Kaufman, R. (1986). Assessing needs. In National Society for Performance and Instruction (Ed.)Introduction to performance technology, Washington, D.C.: National Society for Performance and Instruction.Google Scholar
  34. Kling, R., McKim, G., Fortuna, J., & King, A. (2001).A bit more to IT: Scientific communication forums as sociotechnical interaction networks. Submitted for review.Google Scholar
  35. Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M. (1980).Metaphors we live by. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  36. Lambdin, D., Duffy, T., & Moore, J. (1997). Using an interactive information system to expand preservice teachers' visions of effective mathematics teaching.Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 5, 171–202.Google Scholar
  37. Lampert, M. (1990). When the problem is not the question and the solution is not the answer: Mathematical knowing and teaching.American Educational Research Journal, 17, 29–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lampert, M. (1998). Studying thinking as a thinking practice. In J. Greeno & S. Goldman (Eds.),Thinking practices in mathematics and science learing (pp. 53–78). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  39. Land, S.M., & Hannafin, M.J. (1996). A conceptual framework for the development of theories-in-action with open-ended learning environments.Educational Technology Research and Development, 44 (3) 37–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lave, J. (1988).Cognition in practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life. New York; Cambridge.Google Scholar
  41. Lave, J. (1993). Introduction. In J. Lave & S. Chaiklin (Eds.),Understanding practice: Perspectives on activity and context (pp. 3–34), New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991).Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Lemke, J. (1997). Cognition, context, and learning: A social semiotic perspective. In D. Kirshner & J.A. Whitson (Eds.),Situated cognition: Social, semiotic, and psychological perspectives (pp. 37–56). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  44. Levin, J.A., Riel, M., Miyake, N., & Cohen, M. (1987). Education on the electronic frontier: teleappren-ticesphips in globally distributed educational contexts.Contemporary Educational Psychology, 12, 254–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lewis, C., & Tsuchida, I. (1997). Planned educational change in Japan: The shift to student-centered elementary science.Journal of Educational Policy, 12 (5), 313–331.Google Scholar
  46. Link2Learn Professional Development & Common-wealth of Pennsylvania. (1997).Link2Learn Professional Development. [On-line]. Available: http://L2L.ed.psu-edu (visited 1999, January 15).Google Scholar
  47. MaKinster, J.G., Barab, S.A., & Keating, T.M. (2001). Design and implementation of an on-line professional development community: A project-based learning approach.Electronic Journal of Science Education. [On-line]. Availabe at: [V5, N3, 2001, March].Google Scholar
  48. Maturana, H.R. & Varela, H.R.. (1992).The tree of knowledge: The biological roots of human understanding.Boston:Shambhala.Google Scholar
  49. McCombs, B.L., & Whisler, J.S. (1997).The learnercentered classroom and school: Strategies for increasing student motivation and achievement. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  50. MacMahon, H., O'Neill, W. & Cunningham, D.J. (1992). “Open” software design: A case study.Educational Technology, 32 (2), 43–55.Google Scholar
  51. Mevarech, Z.R. (1995). Teacher's paths on the way to and from the professional development forum. In T.R. Guskey & M. Huberman (Eds.),Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices (pp. 151–170). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  52. Miles, M.B. (1995). Introduction. In T. Guskey & M. Huberman (Eds.),Professional development in education: New paradigms and practices (pp vii-ix). New York: Teachers College.Google Scholar
  53. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (1989).Curriculum and evaluation standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  54. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (in press).Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author.Google Scholar
  55. National Research Council. (1996).National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  56. Niederhauser, D.S., Salem, D.J., & Fields, M. (1999). Exploring teaching, learning, and instructional reform in an introductory technology course.Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 7 (2), 153–172.Google Scholar
  57. Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995).The knowledge-creating company, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  58. North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (1999).Pathways to school improvement. [On-line]. Available: (visited 1999, Jan. 15).Google Scholar
  59. Orr, J. (1990). Sharing knowledge, celebrating identity: War stories and community memory in a service culture. In D.S. Middleton & D. Edwards (Eds.),Collective remembering: Memory in society (pp. 169–189). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  60. Preece, J. (2000).Online communities: Designing usability, supporing sociability, New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
  61. Rényi, J. (1998). Building learning into the teaching job.Educational Leadership February 1998, 70–74.Google Scholar
  62. Richardson, V. (1990). Significant and worthwhile change in teaching practice.Educational Researcher, 19 (7), 10–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Richardson, V. (1992). The agenda-setting dilemma in a constructivist staff development process.Teaching and Teacher Education, 8, 287–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula, T. Buttery, & E. Guyton (Eds.),Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed.), New York, NY: Simon & Shuster Macmillan.Google Scholar
  65. Riel, M. (1998). Learning communities through computing networks. In J.S. Greeno & S. Goldman (Eds.),Thinking practices in mathematics and science learning (pp. 369–398). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  66. Rose, A., Ding, W., Marchionini, G., Bealer Jr., J., & Nolet, V. (1997).Building an electronic learning community: From design to implementation. CS Technical report CS-CR-3831 (September). University Park, MD: Computer Science, University of Maryland.Google Scholar
  67. Roth, W.-M. (1996). Where is the context in contextual word problems?: Mathematical practices and products in Grade 8 students' answers to story problems.Cognition and Instruction, 14, 487–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ruopp, R., Gal, S., Drayton, B., & Pfister, M. (1993).LabNet: Toward a community of practice. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  69. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1994). Computer support for knowledge-building communities,The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 3, 265–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schlager, M., & Schank, P. (1997) TAPPED-IN: A new on-line community concept for the next generation of Internet technology. In R. Hall, N. Miyake, and N. Enyedy (Eds.),Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (pp. 231–240). Toronto: Univ. of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  71. Schwen, T., Kalman, H.K., Hara, N., & Kisling, E.L. (1998). Potential knowledge management contributions to human performance technology research and practice.Educational Technology Research and Development, 46 (4), 73–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Simmons, et al (1999). Beginning teachers: Beliefs and classroom actions.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36 (8), 930–954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Smylie, M.A., & Conyers, J.G. (1991). Changing conceptions of teaching influence: The future of staff development.Journal of Staff Development, 12 (1), 12–16.Google Scholar
  74. Stevenson, H., & Stigler, J. (1992).The learning gap, New York: Summit.Google Scholar
  75. Stoffett, R.T., & Stoddart, T. (1994). The ability to understand and use conceptual change pedagogy as a function of prior content learning experience.Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 31–51.Google Scholar
  76. Strage, A. & Bol, L. (1996). High school biology: What makes it a challenge for teachers?Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33, 753–772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Tinker, R. (1998).The Concord Consortium, Newsletter. Concord, MA.Google Scholar
  78. Tobin, K., & Gallagher, J.J. (1987). What happens in high school science classrooms?Journal of Curriculum Studies, 19, 549–560.Google Scholar
  79. Tripp, S.D., & Bichelmeyer, B. (1990). Rapid prototyping: An alternative instructional design strategy.Educational Technology Research and Development, 38 (1), 31–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Walkerdine, V. (1997). Redefining the subject in situated cognition theory. In D. Kirshner & J.A. Whitson (Eds.),Situated cognition: Social, semiotic, and psychological perspectives (pp. 57–70). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  81. Wenger, E. (1998).Communities of practice: Learning meaning, and identity. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  82. Young, M. (1993). Instructional design for situated learning.Educational Technology Research and Development, 41 (1) 43–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sasha A. Barab
    • 1
  • The ILF Design Team
  • James G. Makinster
    • 2
  • Julie A. Moore
    • 3
  • Donald J. Cunningham
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Instructional Systems Technology and Cognitive Science at Indiana UniversityBloomington
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Indiana UniversityBloomington
  3. 3.Department of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana UniversityBloomington
  4. 4.Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology at Indiana UniversityBloomington

Personalised recommendations