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Experienced Teachers as Novice Knowledge Builders in Online and Faceto- Face Environments: Informing Professional Development

, , Simon Fraser Univ., Canada

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Norfolk, VA USA ISBN 978-1-880094-42-6 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


The goal of our research is to understand better how to provide professional development to teachers who are beginning to use Bereiter and Scardamalia's (1996) knowledge building theory in their classrooms. The study is a response to several calls for more attention to what the teacher must learn to be able to support an inquiry-based classroom culture (e.g., Keys & Bryan, 1999). We interviewed eight experienced teachers (experience range: 4-24 years) after they had taken a course on inquiry-based approaches to teaching and learning science (total enrollment: 18 teachers). The teachers used an online discussion environment, Web Knowledge Forumä, to discuss classroom activities and readings between class meetings. (Because the course was located in a Northern Canadian community, the class met on alternating weekends for two 4-hour classes.) A section of the course focused on knowledge building. The teachers were first introduced to some video-based examples of knowledge building in elementary schools, and read an article (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996). Following this, they began to contribute their questions and theories about electricity to the online database and read an article on benchmark lessons (diSessa & Minstrell, 1998). During the following weekend, they completed a series of simple activities with batteries and bulbs, and began to develop conceptual models for the phenomena they had explored, using concept maps. In the following weeks, they discussed questions left open by this work. As the discussion evolved, the teachers had an opportunity to experience a dialectical interaction between contributions to the database and classroom activities. For example, experiments were tried in class as a result of contributions to the on-line discussion, and reading material was taken to a subsequent class in order to shed new light on one or two conceptual issues. In the study we analyzed statistical data of online interactions, their quality, reflections on the course, written after each class, and verbatim transcripts of one-time interviews. This paper focuses on the interviews. Teachers were asked about their educational and professional histories, pedagogical beliefs, experiences in the course, understanding of knowledge building, and ideas about implementing it in their own classrooms. The interview questions and initial codes were informed by the knowledge building principles and a content analysis of the Knowledge Forum™ database. We report the main themes of what proved to be difficult for these teachers in relating the underpinnings of knowledge building theory to their beliefs about teaching and learning.


van Aalst, J. & Hill, C. (2001). Experienced Teachers as Novice Knowledge Builders in Online and Faceto- Face Environments: Informing Professional Development. In C. Montgomerie & J. Viteli (Eds.), Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2001--World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 1930-1931). Norfolk, VA USA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved November 14, 2019 from .



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