Socio-cognitive dynamics of knowledge building in the work of 9- and 10-year-olds
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- Zhang, J., Scardamalia, M., Lamon, M. et al. Education Tech Research Dev (2007) 55: 117. doi:10.1007/s11423-006-9019-0
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This study examines four months of online discourse of 22 Grade 4 students engaged in efforts to advance their understanding of optics. Their work is part of a school-wide knowledge building initiative, the essence of which is giving students collective responsibility for idea improvement. This goal is supported by software—Knowledge Forum—designed to provide a public and collaborative space for continual improvement of ideas. A new analytic tool—inquiry threads—was developed to analyze the discourse used by these students as they worked in this environment. Data analyses focus on four knowledge building principles: idea improvement; real ideas, authentic problems (involving concrete/empirical and abstract/conceptual artifacts); community knowledge (knowledge constructed for the benefit of the community as a whole); and constructive use of authoritative sources. Results indicate that these young students generated theories and explanation-seeking questions, designed experiments to produce real-world empirical data to support their theories, located and introduced expert resources, revised ideas, and responded to problems and ideas that emerged as community knowledge evolved. Advances were reflected in progress in refining ideas and evidence of growth of knowledge for the community as a whole. Design strategies and challenges for collective idea improvement are discussed.