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Knowledge building

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{{EdPsy} Carl Bereiter created the phrase, "Knowledge Building" to describe what expert groups did when they created knowledge.

Knowledge building refers to creation of new cognitive artifacts as a result of collective discussion and synthesis of ideas. These artifacts should advance the current understanding of the individuals within a group to a point beyond their initial level of knowledge, and should be directed towards advancing the understanding what is known of a topic or idea outside of the group.

Knowledge building, also known as “deep constructivism” (Scardamalia, 2002, p.4) involves making a collective inquiry into some matter and coming to a deeper understanding through interactive questioning, dialogue and continuous improvement of ideas. Ideas are thus the medium of operation in knowledge building environments. The teacher becomes a guide rather than a director and allows students to take over a significant portion of the responsibility for their own learning including planning, execution and evaluation. (Scardamalia, 2002, p.4)

One of the hallmarks of knowledge building is a sense of “we” superceding the sense of “I,” a feeling that the group is operating collectively and not just as an assemblage of individuals. The technological determinants describe the use of software such as Knowledge Forum that supports many of the prerequisite processes of knowledge building. Bereiter et. al. (1997, p.12) state that knowledge building projects are different because, among other things, they focus on understanding instead of tasks and collaboration instead of controversy.

“Knowledge Building” may be defined simply as the creation, testing, and improvement of conceptual artifacts. It is not confined to education but applies to creative knowledge work of all kinds." (Bereiter and Scardamalia, in press)

Scardamalia (2002) identifies twelve determinants of Knowledge Building.


Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (in press). Learning to work creatively with knowledge. In E. De Corte, L. Verschaffel, N. Entwistle, & J. van Merriënboer (Eds.), Unravelling basic components and dimensions of powerful learning environments. EARLI Advances in Learning and Instruction Series

Bereiter, C., Scardamalia, M., Cassells, C., & Hewitt, J. (1997). Postmodernism, knowledge building, and elementary science. Elementary School Journal. (97) 4, 329-340.

Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge. In B. Smith (Ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 67-98). Chicago: Open Court.


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