Can Collaborative Knowledge Building Promote Both Scientific Processes and Science Achievement?

Carol K.K. Chan, Ivan C.K. Lam, Raymond W.H. Leung


This study investigated the role of collective knowledge building in promoting scientific inquiry and achievements among Hong Kong high-school chemistry students. The participants included 34 Grade 10 (15-16 years old) students who engaged in collective inquiry and progressive discourse, using Knowledge Forum@, a computer-supported learning environment. A comparison class of 35 students also participated in the study. The instructional design, premised on knowledge-building principles including epistemic agency, improvable ideas and community knowledge, consisted of several components: developing a collaborative classroom culture, engaging in problem-centered inquiry, deepening the knowledge-building discourse, and aligning assessment with collective learning. Quantitative findings show that the students in the knowledge-building classroom outperformed the comparison students in scientific understanding with sustained effects in public examination. Analyses of knowledge-building dynamics indicate that the students showed deeper engagement and inquiry over time. Students’ collaboration and inquiry on Knowledge Forum significantly predicted their scientific understanding, over and above the effects of their prior science achievement. Qualitative analyses suggest how student’s knowledge-creation discourse, involving explanatory inquiry, constructive use of information and theory revision,can scaffold scientific understanding.


knowledge building, scientific inquiry, collaboration, technology-mediated learning

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