The Interrelations of Individual Learning and Collective Knowledge Construction: A Cognitive-Systemic Framework

  • Ulrike Cress
  • Joachim Kimmerle


This chapter deals with the strong interdependence between individual learning and collective knowledge construction. In the first part, we show that research on collaborative learning needs to take both the level of the individual and the level of the group into consideration. Most current theories, however, focus solely either on the individual or on the group level and fall short of linking them to each other. In the second part, we present our “co-evolution model” that aims to integrate processes of individual learning and collective knowledge construction into a cognitive-systemic framework. We discuss how cognitive systems emerge in their attempt to comprehend their environment. We also discuss how social systems develop out of communication arising from the human need for social interaction. Finally, we point out how cognitive and social systems couple with and stimulate each other and how this process leads to a co-evolution of both systems. In this effect, individual learning results from the processes that go on in cognitive systems while collective knowledge construction unfolds due to the processes that occur in social systems. The third part of this chapter elaborates on how this cognitive-systemic framework contributes to our understanding of digital collaborative learning. We point out that our framework provides a descriptive, rather than a normative view of learning. Its main focus is not on formal learning settings where learning is explicitly intended, but on situations where people informally exchange knowledge and participate in knowledge-related communities. All forms of social media (wikis, blogs, or social networking services) may enable this type of interaction and knowledge development. Even though these tools were not explicitly designed for “learning,” their use leads to knowledge exchange, knowledge acquisition, and knowledge construction. The quality of this knowledge depends on the norms of the social systems.


Collective knowledge construction Social system Cognitive system Co-evolution Social software 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Knowledge Construction, Leibniz-Institut für WissensmedienTübingenGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz-Institut für WissensmedienTübingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TuebingenTübingenGermany

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