Group-level formative feedback and metadiscourse

  • Monica Resendes
  • Marlene Scardamalia
  • Carl Bereiter
  • Bodong ChenEmail author
  • Cindy Halewood


This research explores the ability of grade 2 students to engage in productive discussion about the state of their knowledge building using group-level feedback tools to support their metadiscourse. Two aspects of knowledge work were common to the comparison and experimental classes: “Knowledge Building talk” (KB talk) involving teacher-student discussions and the use of Knowledge Forum, an online environment optimized to support Knowledge Building/knowledge creation and to represent and support student work and KB talks. Students in experimental conditions additionally reviewed visualizations of vocabulary use and discourse patterns during KB talk time. Two formative feedback visualization tools were co-developed by the classroom teacher and researchers to show (a) overlaps and discrepancies between words students used in their Knowledge Forum notes and words used by writers more knowledgeable in the field and (b) frequency of discourse moves indicated by students’ use of epistemic discourse markers in Knowledge Forum. These visualizations served as grounding for KB talk concerned with interpreting the visualizations and considering their implications. A comparison of two classes similar except for presence or absence of these visualizations showed significant effects favoring the experimental class in domain-specific vocabulary, repertoire of discourse moves, scientific understanding, epistemic complexity of ideas, and interpersonal connectedness of online discourse.


Formative feedback Knowledge building Metadiscourse Collaborative discourse Vocabulary 



This research was made possible through generous support of teachers, administrators, and students at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto and funding from the Ontario Ministry of Education, Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat; Ontario principals’ association’s Leading Student Achievement initiative: Networks for Learning project, and two grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada titled “Ways of Contributing to Dialogue in Elementary School Science and History” and “Digitally-Mediated Group Knowledge Processes to Enhance Individual Achievement in Literacy and Numeracy.” We are grateful to ijCSCL reviewers for careful review.


  1. Andrade, H., & Du, Y. (2007). Student responses to criteria-referenced self-assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 32(2), 159–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baltzersen, R. K. (2013). The importance of metacommunication in supervision processes in higher education. International Journal of Higher Education, 2(2), 128–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bateman, S., Gutwin, C., & Nacenta, M. (2008). Seeing things in the clouds: The effect of visual features on tag cloud selections. In Proceedings of ACM Conference on Hypertext and Hypermedia (pp. 193–202). Pittsburgh: ACM.Google Scholar
  4. Beck, I. L., McKeown, M. G., & Omanson, R. C. (1987). The effects and uses of diverse vocabulary instructional techniques. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Bereiter, C. (2010). How to make good knowledge-building discourse better. Keynote address at the 2010 Knowledge Building Summer Institute “New Assessments and Environments for Knowledge Building”, Toronto, Canada, August 3–6, 2010.Google Scholar
  6. Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2003). Learning to work creatively with knowledge. In E. De Corte, L. Verschaffel, N. Entwistle, & J. van Merriënboer (Eds.), Powerful learning environments: Unraveling basic components and dimensions (pp. 55–68). Advances in Learning and Instruction Series). Oxford: Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
  7. Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2014). Knowledge building and knowledge creation: One concept, two hills to climb. In S. C. Tan, H. J. So, & J. Yeo (Eds.), Knowledge creation in education (pp. 35–52). Singapore: Springer.Google Scholar
  8. Bereiter, C., Scardamalia, M., Cassells, C., & Hewitt, J. (1997). Postmodernism, knowledge-building, and elementary science. Elementary School Journal, 97(4), 329–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bielaczyc, K., & Collins, A. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (pp. 269–292). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  10. Biemiller, A. (2005). Size and sequence in vocabulary development: Implications for choosing words for primary grade vocabulary instruction. In A. Hiebert & M. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp. 223–242). Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Bloom, B. S., Hastings, J. T., & Madaus, G. (1971). Handbook on formative and summative evaluation of student learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  12. Boud, D. (1995). Enhancing learning through self-assessment. London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  13. Brown, A. L., & Campione, J. C. (1996). Psychological theory and design of innovative learning environments: On procedures, principles, and systems. In L. Schauble & R. Glaser (Eds.), Innovations in learning: New environments for education (pp. 289–325). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  14. Burtis, P. J. (1998). Analytic toolkit for Knowledge Forum. Centre for Applied Cognitive Science, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  15. Campbell, D., & Stanley, J. (1963). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research. Chicago: Rand-McNally.Google Scholar
  16. Chan, C. K. K. (2001). Peer collaboration and discourse patterns in learning from incompatible information. Instructional Science, 29(6), 443–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chan, C. K. K. (2013). Collaborative knowledge building. Towards a knowledge creation perspective. In C. E. Hmelo-Silver, C. A. Chinn, C. Chan, & A. M. O’Donnell (Eds.), The international handbook of collaborative learning (pp. 437–461). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Chappuis, S., & Stiggins, R. J. (2002). Classroom assessment for learning. Educational Leadership, 60(1), 40–43.Google Scholar
  19. Chen, B., Scardamalia, M., Resendes, M., Chuy, M., & Bereiter, C. (2012). Students’ intuitive understanding of promisingness and promisingness judgments to facilitate knowledge advancement. In J. van Aalst, K. Thompson, M. J. Jacobson, & P. Reimann (Eds.), The future of learning: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2012) - volume 1, full papers (pp. 111–118). Sydney: ISLS.Google Scholar
  20. Chuy, M., Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., Prinsen, F., Resendes, M., Messina, R., Hunsburger, W., Teplovs, C., & Chow, A. (2010). Understanding the nature of science and scientific progress: A theory-building approach. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 36(1). Published online at
  21. Chuy, M., Resendes, M., Tarchi, C., Chen, B., Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2011). Ways of contributing to an explanation-seeking dialogue in science and history. QWERTY: Journal of Technology and Culture, 6(2), 242–260.Google Scholar
  22. Cobb, P., Confrey, J., DiSessa, A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L. (2003). Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 9–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fischer, K. W. (1980). A theory of cognitive development: The control and construction of hierarchies of skills. Psychological Review, 87, 477–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fischer, K. W., & Pipp, S. L. (1984). Processes of cognitive development: Optimal level and skill acquisition. In R. J. Steinberg (Ed.), Mechanisms of cognitive development (pp. 45–80). San Francisco: Freeman.Google Scholar
  25. Freeman, L. (2006). The development of social network analysis. Vancouver: Empirical Press.Google Scholar
  26. Halatchliyski, I., Hecking, T., Goehnert, T., & Hopper, H. U. (2014). Analyzing the main paths of knowledge evolution and contributor roles in an Open Learning Community. Journal of Learning Analytics, 1(2), 71–93.Google Scholar
  27. Haythornthwaite, C. (2010). Social networks and information transfer. In M. J. Bates & M. N. Maack (Eds.), Encyclopedia of library and information sciences, (1)1, (pp. 4837–4847). NY: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  28. Haythornthwaite, C., & de Laat, M. (2012). Social network informed design. In A. D. Olofsson & J. O. Lindberg (Eds.), Informed design of educational technologies in higher education: Enhanced learning and teaching (pp. 352–374). Hershey: IGI Global.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Haythornthwaite, C. & Gruzd, A. (2012). Exploring patterns and configurations in networked learning texts. In Proceedings of the 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS) (pp. 3358–3367). Los Alamitos: IEEE.Google Scholar
  30. Hirsch, E. D. (2003). Reading comprehension requires knowledge of words and the world: Scientific insights into the fourth-grade slump and the nation’s stagnant comprehension scores. American Educator, 27(1), 10–13, 16–22, 28–29, 48.Google Scholar
  31. Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. (1958). The growth of logical thinking from childhood to adolescence. New York: Basic Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jeong, D. (2009). Discussion Analysis Tool (DAT). Retrieved from:
  33. Koutrika, G., Zadeh, Z. M., & Garcia-Molina, H. (2009). Data clouds: Summarizing keyword search results over structured data. In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Extending Database Technology (EDBT2009) (pp. 391–402). Saint-Petersburg: ACM.Google Scholar
  34. Lakatos, I. (1976). Proofs and refutations: The logic of mathematical discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Matsuzawa, Y., Oshima, J., Oshima, R., Niihara, Y., & Sakai, S. (2011). KBDeX: A platform for exploring discourse in collaborative learning. Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, 26, 198–207.Google Scholar
  36. Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Newman, M. E. J. (2010). Networks: An introduction. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge creating company. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Ontario Ministry of Education. (2007). The Ontario curriculum, grades 1–8: Science and technology. Retrieved from:
  40. Oshima, J., Oshima, R., & Matsuzawa, Y. (2012). Knowledge building discourse explorer: A social network analysis application for knowledge building discourse. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60, 903–921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Paavola, S., & Hakkarainen, K. (2005). The knowledge creation metaphor – an emergent epistemological approach to learning. Science & Education, 14(6), 535–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pauwels, P., De Meyer, R., & van Campenhout, J. (2013). Design thinking support: Information systems versus reasoning. Design Issues, 29(2), 42–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Puntambekar, S., Erkens, G., & Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2011). Analyzing interactions in CSCL: Methodology, approaches, and issues. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Quintana, C., Reiser, B. J., Davis, E. A., Krajcik, J., Fretz, E., Duncan, R. G., Kyza, E., Edelson, D., & Soloway, E. (2004). A scaffolding design framework for software to support science inquiry. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(3), 337–386.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ramaprasad, A. (1983). On the definition of feedback. Behavioral Science, 28(1), 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reeve, R., Messina, R., & Scardamalia, M. (2008). Wisdom in elementary school. In M. Ferrari & G. Potworowski (Eds.), Teaching for wisdom: Cross-cultural perspectives on fostering wisdom (pp. 79–92). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  47. Roschelle, J., Penuel, W. R., & Shechtman, N. (2006). Co-design of innovations with teachers: Definition and dynamics. In Proceedings of the International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 606–612). Bloomington: ACM.Google Scholar
  48. Ross, J. A. (2006). The reliability, validity, and utility of self-assessment. Practical Assessment Research & Evaluation, 11(10), 1–13.Google Scholar
  49. Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge. In B. Smith (Ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 67–98). Chicago: Open Court.Google Scholar
  50. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 97–118). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2014). Knowledge building and knowledge creation: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed., pp. 397–417). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Schrammel, J., Leitner, M. & Tscheligi, M. (2009). Semantically structured tag clouds: An empirical evaluation of clustered presentation approaches. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2037–2040). Boston: ACM.Google Scholar
  53. Simmons, K. (1993). Universality and the liar: An essay on truth and the diagonal argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Snow, C. E., Porche, M. V., Tabors, P. O., & Harris, S. R. (2007). Is literacy enough? Pathways to academic success for adolescents. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.Google Scholar
  55. Stahl, S. A. (2003). Words are learned incrementally over multiple exposures. American Educator, 27(1), 18–19.Google Scholar
  56. Stahl, G. (2006). Group cognition: Computer support for building collaborative knowledge. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  57. Stahl, S., & Fairbanks, M. (1986). The effects of vocabulary instruction: A model-based meta analysis. Review of Educational Research, 56(1), 72–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Stromer-Galley, J. (2007). Measuring deliberation’s content: A coding scheme. Journal of Public Deliberation, 3(1), Article 12.Google Scholar
  59. Tsoukas, H. (2009). A dialogical approach to the creation of new knowledge in organizations. Organization Science, 20, 941–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. van Aalst, J. (2009). Distinguishing knowledge-sharing, knowledge-construction, and knowledge creation discourses. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(3), 259–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Vande Kopple, W. J. (1985). Some exploratory discourse on metadiscourse. College Composition and Communication, 36(1), 82–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. von Krogh, G., Ichijo, K., & Nonaka, I. (2000). Enabling knowledge creation: Unlocking the mystery of tacit knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wasserman, S., & Faust, K. (1994). Social network analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Xexéo, G., Morgado, F., & Fiuza, P. (2009). Differential tag clouds: Highlighting particular features in documents. In Proceedings of 2009 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology (pp. 129–132). Milano: IET.Google Scholar
  65. Zhang, J., & Messina, R. (2010). Collaborative productivity as self-sustaining processes in a grade 4 knowledge building community. In K. Gomez, J. Radinsky, & L. Lyons (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 49–56). Chicago: International Society of the Learning Sciences.Google Scholar
  66. Zhang, J., Scardamalia, M., Lamon, M., Messina, R., & Reeve, R. (2007). Socio-cognitive dynamics of knowledge building in the work of nine- and ten-year-olds. Educational Technology Research and Development (ETR&D), 55(2), 117–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Zhang, J., Scardamalia, M., Reeve, R., & Messina, R. (2009). Designs for collective cognitive responsibility in knowledge building communities. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 18(1), 7–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zhang, J., Chen, M.-H., Tao, D., Lee, J. Sun, Y., & Judson, D. (2015). Fostering sustained Knowledge Building through metadiscourse aided by the Idea Thread Mapper. In T. Koschmann, P. Häkkinen, & P. Tchounikine (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL 2015). International Society of the Learning Sciences.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc. 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica Resendes
    • 1
  • Marlene Scardamalia
    • 1
  • Carl Bereiter
    • 1
  • Bodong Chen
    • 2
    Email author
  • Cindy Halewood
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology (IKIT)OISE/University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education and Human DevelopmentUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child StudyOISE/University of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations