Going Beyond Best Practice:
Knowledge Building Principles and Indicators


Summer Institute 2003
Marlene Scardamalia

Community Knowledge, Collective Responsibility

Standard best practice
Participants collaborate on the production of a finished product that demonstrates individual or small-group learning

Knowledge building value added
Participants take responsibility for the overall advancement of knowledge in the community.

Knowledge Forum: An open, collaborative workspace holds cultural artifacts that are contributed by community members.

Knowledge Building Indicators: Reading and building-on the notes of others, across all views corresponding to shared goals; ensuring that views are informative and helpful for the community; linking views in ways that demonstrate view interrelationships

Constructive Uses of Authoritative Sources:

Standard best practice
Participants critically evaluate information sources and recognize that even the best are fallible

Knowledge building value added
Participants use authoritative sources, along with other information sources as data for their own knowledge building and idea-improving processes.

Knowledge Forum: ‘Contribute-and-reference’ overrides ‘copy-delete’ and unelaborated explanations; expertise is broadly available rather than concentrated in person-to-person interchanges

Knowledge Building Indicators: Contributing new information; referencing and building-on authoritative sources; building bibliographies

Embedded, and Transformative Assessment:

Standard best practice
Externally defined assessment is taken seriously but does not dominate knowledge work.

Knowledge building value added
The community engages in its own internal assessment, which is both more fine-tuned and rigorous than external assessment, and serves to ensure that the community’s work will exceed the expectations of external assessors

Knowledge Forum: Standards and benchmarks are objects of discourse, to be annotated, built on, and risen above

Knowledge Building Indicators: Increases in literacy, 21st century skills, and productivity are by-products of mainline knowledge work, and advance in parallel

Democratizing Knowledge

Standard best practice
Everyone’s work is recognized and praised; participants help each other find needed information.

Knowledge building value added
All participants are legitimate contributors to the shared goals of the community; all have a sense of ownership of knowledge advances achieved by the group

Knowledge Forum: A way into the central knowledge space for all participants

Knowledge Building Indicators: Evenness of contributions

Epistemic Agency

Standard best practice
Participants demonstrate a personal sense of direction, power, motivation, and responsibility

Knowledge building value added
Participants mobilize personal strengths to set forth their ideas and to negotiate a fit between personal ideas and ideas of others, using contrasts to spark and sustain knowledge advancement rather than depending on others to chart that course for them

Knowledge Forum: Support for theory construction and for viewing ideas in the context of related but different ideas
Knowledge Building Indicators: Theory refinement; uses of epistemological terms

Idea Diversity

Standard best practice
Different ideas or opinions are brainstormed, then grouped into categories, and finally arguments are carried out to resolve differences.

Knowledge building value added
Different ideas create a dynamic environment in which contrasts, competition, and complementarity of ideas is evident, creating a rich environment for ideas to evolve into new and more refined forms

Knowledge Forum: Notes and views serve as centers of activity, increasingly connected through references and embedded notes; ideas live in multiple views

Knowledge Building Indicators: Notes and views are surrounded by others of varied content, and this content becomes more coherent over time, leading to new diversity-coherence cycles

Improvable Ideas

Standard best practice
Ideas are accepted or rejected on the basis of logical argument and evidence

Knowledge building value added
All ideas are treated as improvable; participants aim to mirror the work of great thinkers in gathering and weighing evidence, and ensuring that explanations cohere with all available evidence

Knowledge Forum
: Recursion--there is always a higher level

Knowledge Building Indicators: Change scores reflect continual improvement; revisions; theory refinement

Pervasive Knowledge Building

Standard best practice
Special time is set aside for creative work with ideas, usually after the basic work is done; special technologies and supports encourage creative work.

Knowledge building value added

Creative work with ideas is integral to all knowledge work.

Knowledge Forum: Creative work with ideas is in the social fabric of the community rather than in special-purpose supports

Knowledge Building Indicators: Contributions to collective resources reflect all aspects of knowledge work

Real Ideas, Authentic Problems

Standard best practice
Project-based learning replaces short-term tasks with more complex, ill-defined tasks

Knowledge building value added
Real knowledge problems arise from efforts to understand the world; creative work with ideas supports faster and more reliable learning, whereas learning alone seldom leads to knowledge innovation

Knowledge Forum: Creates a culture for creative work with ideas

Knowledge Building Indicators:
Notes and views serve as direct reflections of the core work of the organization

Rise Above

Standard best practice
Teacher or leader takes responsibility for synthesizing diverse ideas, identifying common ground, and presenting new challenges.

Knowledge building value added
The conditions to which people adapt change as a result of the successes of other people in the environment. Adapting means adapting to a progressive set of conditions that keep raising standards.

Knowledge Forum: Rise-above notes and views; unlimited embedding; emergent rather than fixed goals

Knowledge Building Indicators: Use of rise-above notes and views

Knowledge Building Discourse


Standard best practice
Discourse allows participants to express and gain feedback on their ideas, defend different points of view, arrive at conclusions

Knowledge building value added
Discourse serves to identify shared problems and gaps in understanding and to advance understanding beyond the level of the most knowledgeable individual.

Knowledge Forum: Supports emergent rather than predetermined goals and workspaces; rich intertextual and inter-team notes and views

Knowledge Building Indicators: revision, reference, annotation; contributions exceed expectations

Symmetric Knowledge Advancement

Standard best practice
Groups carry out inquiries independently and then publicize their findings for the benefit and response of other groups.

Knowledge building value added
Interleaved communities provide successively more demanding contexts for knowledge work, and set into motion inner-outer community dynamics that serve to embed ideas in a broader social context.

Knowledge Forum: Virtual visits and meetings; Co-constructed knowledge Spaces; recreated views

Knowledge Building Indicators:
Cross-view, cross-sector, cross-idea activity