4 Collective Cognitive Responsibility for the Advancement of Knowledge Marlene Scardamalia



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Figure 4.2

The 'Leaves' sub-view follows a pointer from the 'Welcome' View (Figure 4.1). Children's notes focus on the problem: What causes leaves to change color in the fall?
her theory regarding chlorophyll must be wrong, because the sap that she saw was not green. Others raised many other issues about what they saw, and how the flow of sap gave them new ideas about the internal structure of a tree, and the relation of its internal structure to their theories. What was impressive, as the teacher reports, is that the work in Knowledge Forum and the visit to the maple-syrup farm were not closely related in time. She was surprised and delighted that a relationship was discovered, as she had not anticipated it herself. This juxtaposition of theory and relevant evidence suggests epistemic agency: Personally held beliefs are viewed in relation to ideas suggested by others and by everyday phenomena. We also know, from the teacher’s account, that the students became actively engaged in other efforts to test their theories, through self-invented experiments. For instance, they collected leaves and placed them in the freezer in the basement of the school. This was their way of testing the time and degree of color change they might see with the leaves. As the above accounts suggest, their theories seemed real enough to them that they carried them to the playground, took them along with them to the field trip, and reportedly to the dinner table. The transportability of these ideas, I propose, follows from their articulation and availability in a communal space where they became an object for inquiry by everyone.


Figure 4.3

'Leaf gets plugged' theory note from the 'Leaves' view (Figure 4.2). Shows student's hypothesis explaining why leaves change color.

We see evidence of the extended life of these ideas in a subsequent view (Figure 4.4). This view contains several notes of a special kind called 'rise-above' notes. These notes are the result of the students and teacher working together to collect into one common note similar theoretical accounts. One rise-above note reads, “These notes share the idea that the sap gets plugged and that is why the leaves change color.” Students who felt that accurately characterized their theory then dragged and dropped their notes into the rise-above note, removing them from the screen but making them still available through


the rise-above. Thus we see the rise-above principle in action. As suggested by the various text and graphics notes that the students wrote, there was a way in for everyone—a common discourse space to aid the democratization of knowledge.


Figure 4.4

'Trees and Leaves' view contains rise-above notes.
Pervasive knowledge building is reflected in the extensibility of their work with ideas in many contexts, both in school and out, and across diverse knowledge media. Community knowledge, collective responsibility is evident in their work with one another. Symmetric knowledge advancement is suggested by the teacher’s report that she gained a deeper understanding of photosynthesis and of why plants turn different colors in the fall through her involvement in the students’ inquiries.

Grade 3. Literature Studies


Notes in Knowledge Forum have customizable scaffolds to support high level knowledge processes. Figure 4.5 illustrates a 'theory building' scaffold that we have used to encourage young students to engage in Theory Building while they write their notes.

The Grade 3 students edited this scaffold, saving the first ‘My theory’ support, adding a new support titled ‘Did you know?’ and deleting the rest. ‘Did you know?’ was their favorite scaffold support, and could be found in almost all of their writings on the Harry Potter novel they were reading. “Did you know Quidditch is a game that you play on broomsticks?” “Did you know if you catch the Snitch your team gets 150 points and the game is over?” “Did you know J.K. moved twice from her home. In her school on the first day they had a test!” After the students produced this first round of notes the teacher introduced them to the contrast between 'knowledge telling' and 'knowledge transforming' discourse, as set out in educational literature (Bereiter and Scardamalia 1993). One child had an insight: perhaps 'Did you know?' was their favorite scaffold





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