Fostering collective and individual learning through knowledge building

  • Ke Zhao
  • Carol K. K. Chan


The purpose of this study was to design and examine a computer-supported knowledge-building environment and to investigate both collective knowledge-building dynamics and individual learning in the context of a tertiary education course in mainland China. The participants were 102 students in four intact Year-one tertiary business classes. Two classes experienced a knowledge-building environment (CKB) and the other two were taught using a regular project-based approach (RPBL). Data were obtained from interactions in the forum, writing quality, group-learning portfolios, and surveys. Quantitative analyses indicated that the knowledge-building groups outperformed the comparison groups on academic literacy assessed in terms of conceptual understanding and explanation, and obtained higher scores on beliefs about collaboration. Within-group analyses indicated that the students’ engagement in Knowledge Forum was a significant predictor of their academic literacy. Qualitative contrastive analyses of high- and low-performance groups identified different patterns of conceptual, metacognitive and social processes, and showed that student groups engaging in more collective and meta-discourse discourse moves performed better on individual scores in academic literacy. The implications of examining both collaborative dynamics and individual learning and designing computer-supported knowledge building for tertiary students are discussed.


Collaborative knowledge building Computer-supported inquiry Academic literacy Technology-enhanced learning environment Higher education 



We would like to thank Dr. Jan van Aalst from the University of Hong Kong as well as the anonymous reviewers and the handling editor for their helpful comments and constructive suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.


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Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. and Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Foreign Languages DepartmentShanghai University of Finance and EconomicsShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationUniversity of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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