What is Knowledge Building(KB) and how is it related to me?

Knowledge building (KB) activities pervade in progressive organizations such as scientific communities and corporate businesses in knowledge-based societies. In essence, members of these organizations work together collaboratively to advance the knowledge of the community or the organization as a whole.

Educationally, it is an approach to learning that takes seriously the goal to prepare learners for the knowledge society. Students as members in a knowledge building group or community actively engage in brainstorming ideas, identifying problems, researching for solutions and evidence, debating and discussing with peers. These activities have a clear goal of co-creating new perspectives and advancing knowledge beyond the limit of an individual.

Numerous research findings show that KB induces motivation to learning, improves learners・ higher order thinking e.g. critical thinking, problem-solving, and fosters personal development e.g. communication skills, interpersonal skills and lifelong learning attitudes. Even young children are found to be capable of engaging in KB work given that they are provided with appropriate opportunities and support. Some emerging research evidence also indicates that KB improves the aspects of academic performance formally measured by school and public exams. On the other hand, it is to be noted that progress in knowledge building does not happen naturally without facilitations.

Based upon extensive research and education development work with teachers and students, Scardamalia (2002) put forward 12 knowledge building principles as defining characteristics of knowledge building. Law & Wong (2003) investigated the the growth and development in knowledge building at the team level based on these 12 principles and found a developmental trajectory in the data analyzed. Further analysis suggested a strong tendency for advances in the achievement of the knowledge building characteristics to happen in clusters, and 4 levels of developmental stages in knowledge building at the group level was identified.

(Source: adapted from Scardamalia, 2002; Law, 2005)

Marlene Scardamalia・s Talk on the Theory of Knowledge Building


The knowledge society
In the video, professor Scardamalia introduces the notion of knowledge society in which people no longer live and work in a traditional way.
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Knowledge building & education reform
Here, Scardamalia talks about how the theory of knowledge building fits in the context of education reform in Hong Kong
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Breaking barriers in education
She calls attention to some of the barriers in education reform that may hinder the success of knowledge building
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Idea-centered Vs Task-centered
She explains how task oriented project learning is not really knowledge building work.
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Working with and building on ideas
She further elaborates the notion of idea-centered learning and how students take charge to improve their existing knowledge by working on each other・s ideas.
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Creating a communal space for theory building
She puts forward the scenario where students actually engage in theory building by working on each other・s ideas in a public space.
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An Example Of Students' Knowledge Building Works

Many students and teachers have found that KB activities are both enjoyable and rewarding. In our on-going research, students repeatedly mention that their KB activities count towards one of the best learning experiences they have ever had (See Students' Sharing). Teachers often share how enthused and revitalized they are by the difference they saw in students KB learning experiences (See Teachers' Sharing). We hope that this on-line course serves to introduce this form of learning which both teachers and students find wanting.


Click on the pictures above to view some samples of KB work

Students・ discussion on Knowledge Forum illustrates how KB would look like among students. Apart from visually well organized, the discourse of progressive inquiry produced by the students shows how their understanding towards the topic deepened and their creative ideas expanded.

Click on the icon above to listen to Ms. Yeung, a primary school teacher・s interpretation of the secondary school students・ fertilizer discussion. She was inspired by how students' discussion content has evolved and become richer and more complex as they went deeper into the topic. As a group, they were able to achieve a high, expert level of knowledge while taking into consideration varied and often conflicting perspectives.

Law, N. (2005). Assessing Learning Outcomes in CSCL Settings. Proceedings of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2005, Taipei, Taiwan.

Scardamalia, M. (2002) Collective Cognitive Responsibility for the Advancement of Knowledge. B.Simth (Ed.) Liberal Education in a Knowledge Society. Chicago, Open Court.