Knowledge Building and Writing Development
Maria Chuy, Marlene Scardamalia, & Carl Bereiter, IKIT, OISE/University of Toronto
Knowledge Building helps to bring the process of knowledge creation into schools. The ability to construct new knowledge is vital for work in a Knowledge Age, and proficiency in written communication vital for communicating and continually improving ideas. The aim of this research is to examine how knowledge building pedagogy and practices affect written composition for students in grade four. By fostering processes of knowledge innovation and expertise, knowledge building promotes knowledge-transforming models of writing and attendant cognitive processes such as goal-setting, planning, and evaluation. In this research we test the hypothesis that students with experience in knowledge building will produce texts of higher quality than those of students from a school involved in inquiry and project-based learning, but without focus on knowledge creation and without use of public knowledge spaces for entering and continually improving ideas. In the research to be reported students from one grade 4 knowledge building classroom and one comparison classroom were given 30 minutes to write an essay on the following topic: ‘What I understand about energy and what I still need to understand’. Both classes had equal amounts of time in their science classes to study energy and both classes followed their traditional writing programs. The key difference was whether students engaged in knowledge building or not.
Analysis of the texts conducted by two independent raters showed that essays from the knowledge building class were rated as significantly higher in scores for coherence, readability and scientific vocabulary compared to comparison students. Correlation analysis indicated that the more students participated in on-line knowledge building discussions and related classroom practices, the more clear and readable their texts were. In addition to the quality of the essays, examination of diversity of coherence relations (e.g. additive, contrast, causal relations) and linguistic markers (e.g. ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘thus’) was performed on the same data. Diversity indexes were significantly higher in the knowledge building class than in the comparison class, suggesting greater maturity of cognitive processes. In line with our expectations, the knowledge building approach created a supportive context for writing development in children, with no evident disadvantage.