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Designs for Collective Cognitive Responsibility in Knowledge-Building Communities

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Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 18, Number 1, ISSN 1050-8406


This article reports a design experiment conducted over three successive school years, with the teacher's goal of having his Grade 4 students assume increasing levels of collective responsibility for advancing their knowledge of optics. Classroom practices conducive to sustained knowledge building were co-constructed by the teacher and students, with Knowledge Forum software supporting the production and refinement of the community's knowledge. Social network analysis and qualitative analyses were used to assess online participatory patterns and knowledge advances, focusing on indicators of collective cognitive responsibility. Data indicate increasingly effective procedures, mirrored in students' knowledge advances, corresponding to the following organizations: (a) Year 1--fixed small-groups; (b) Year 2--interacting small-groups with substantial cross-group knowledge sharing; and (c) Year 3--opportunistic collaboration, with small teams forming and disbanding under the volition of community members, based on emergent goals. The third-year model maps most directly onto organic and distributed social structures in real-world knowledge-creating organizations and resulted in the highest level of collective cognitive responsibility, knowledge advancement, and dynamic diffusion of information. Pedagogical and technological innovations to enculturate youth into a knowledge-creating culture, with classroom practices to encourage distributed and opportunistic collaboration, are discussed. (Contains 6 tables and 3 figures.)


Zhang, J., Scardamalia, M., Reeve, R. & Messina, R. (2009). Designs for Collective Cognitive Responsibility in Knowledge-Building Communities. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 18(1), 7-44. Retrieved November 20, 2019 from .

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