Instructional Science

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 563–592 | Cite as

Forming shared inquiry structures to support knowledge building in a grade 5 community

  • Dan Tao
  • Jianwei ZhangEmail author


This study explores the reflective processes by which a grade 5 science community co-constructed shared inquiry structures to focus and guide its inquiry about human body systems over a school year supported by a collaborative online environment. The co-constructed structures included a list of collective wondering areas as the shared focus of inquiry and models of the inquiry process in the form of “research cycle.” Qualitative analyses of field notes, classroom videos, student notebooks and interviews elaborate the evolution of the inquiry areas and the “research cycle” model as well as students’ adaptive use of the structures to guide deeper inquiry. Content analyses of students’ individual research questions and collaborative online discourse indicate that students used the structures to develop more advanced inquiry and make productive contributions. The results contribute to elaborating a reflective structuration approach to co-organizing and sustaining long-term, open-ended inquiry in knowledge building communities.


Learning community Knowledge building Reflective structuration Inquiry structures 



This research was sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation (#1441479). We owe special thanks to the teacher and students for their creative work enabling this research; and to the special issue editors and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Theory and PracticeUniversity at Albany, SUNYAlbanyUSA

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