MET:Collaborative Knowledge Building Model

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The concept of collaborative knowledge-building (CKB) was introduced by Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) in their study of learning at school, in which they proposed that schools should function as knowledge building communities. The collaborating knowledge-building model is a model of learning where there are multiple distinguishable phases that constitute a cycle of personal and social knowledge-building. CBK is inquiry in the service of practical activities; it is a set of personal beliefs, articulated as a contribution to a social knowledge-building process. A necessary condition for collaborative knowledge building is that learners bring individual prior knowledge into the learning situation and clarify differing views and opinions in the course of interactions. This new knowledge emerges neither naturally nor spontaneously and needs to be fostered based on understanding of how new knowledge emerges in social interactions.

The use of networked computers provides alternatives to traditional face-to-face teaching and learning as we move from a single-classroom concept to the concept of a knowledge-building community of learners. The collabortive knowledge building model incorporates insights from various theories of understanding and learning and provides a useful conceptual framework for the design of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) software and environments. Past research, projects and work have demonstrated the effectiveness of these software and environments in facilitating and enhancing collaborative knowledge building among students.

The Process of CKB

The CKB process is described as a synergistic moment by which the group reaches a shared understanding by participating in the socio-cultural process. Each member of the group brings their personal perspective and interpretations of experiences. The process by which a group reaches shared understanding and inter-subjectivity through constant interactions is broken down into smaller knowledge building activities within the model. CBK views learning as a social process incorporating multiple distinguishable phases that constitute a cycle of personal and social knowledge-building. Computer support can be used to integrate the various phases in the cycle of knowledge-building to enhance the learning environment and promote collaborative knowledge-building. Current computer supported learning environments do not adequately support the collaborative nature of learning of the evolution of knowledge building within groups. There are now software such as Web 2.0 and social software that may more adequatly support collaborative knowledge building in computer-based learning environments .

Examples of collaborative knowledge-building in computer supported environments

A Report on a Danish online Masters course

Elsebeth Korsgaard Sorensen from Aalborg University created a report on a Danish online Masters course. She reported that the students' experiences in the course supports a foundation for instructional design that facilitates collaborative knowledge-building online. This online course demonstrated the goals for educators to stimulate participation across diversity and motivate learners to engage in negotiation of meaning and knowledge building dialogue in the process of networked learning. In this course, students were members of a community of practice. In this community of practice, the Danish students were participants. Participants in a community of practice engage with one another through actions and interactions. This includes negotiating meanings with fellow students while simulatneously establishing a relationship and self identity. Sorensen's report encourages computer-supported course designers to facilitate collaborative knowledge building by stimulating participation across diveristy and motivating learners to engage in negotiation of meaning and knowledge building interactions.

The ITCOLE project in Europe

The ITCOLE (Innovative Technology for Collaborative Learning and Knowledge Building) project focused on developing innovative pedagogical models, design principles and technology for collaborative knowledge building to be used in European education. The goal of the ITCOLE project was to build a network leading to the use of collaborative learning technology by utilising pedagogical best practice. The project started in April 2001 and lasted until June 2003. It reviewed, refined and implemented CSCL(Computer-supported collaborative learning)] practices and tools that enabled collaborative knowledge building according to best practices. The last stage of the project involved evaluating software tools in various schools around Europe. Various software were incorporated into the project to enhance collaborative knowledge building.

One of the software developed within the ITCOLE project was Synergeia which enables collaboration over the web. Synergeia is an extension of BSCW (Basic Support for Cooperative Work), a shared workspace system which supports document upload, event notification, and group management. Synergeia creates virtual places for learners to in collaborative groups.

Similar to Synergeia is the web-based learning environment called Fle3. Fle3 is a server software for CPSL. It was designed to support learner and group-centred work that concentrates on creating and developing expressions of knowledge and design. Fle3 enhances collaborative knowledge building by allowing groups to carry out knowledge building dialogue, theory building, and debates. It also allows for students to collaboratively construct digital artifacts such as pictures, audio, and video.

The computer supported intentional learning environment (CSILE)

CSILE was developed by Scardamalia and Bereiter (1992). It is an example of a learning environment that incorporates the primary traits of knowledge-building communities and computers as tools. CSILE focuses on groups projects rather than lectures. Networked computers are used as the primary vehicle to promote collaborative knowledge building as they provide a variety of communication features. The knowledge in the CSILE is dynamic, and is changed and reconstructed over time therefore students jointly build a body of knowledge represented by the community database that is an aggregate of the community rather than the individual. Research results retreived from a study of grade 5 and 6 students suggested that students demonstrate a high level of knowledge building compared to non-CSILE students.

Implications for course designers as suggested by Gerry Stahl

Stahl specializes in Computer-supported Collaborative Learning. He is the founding Executive Editor of the International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (ijCSCL) and is a professor at Dextrel University. He believes that collaborative knowledge building goes beyond sharing personal opinions. He suggests that collaboration software should support more than just sharing personal opinion and information. In a conference in 2000, Stahl provided a list of technology components of knowledge building environment. The components on this list can be used by course designers to provide collaborative knowledge bulding activities in computer-supported learning environments. He provides protype systems that support specific knowledge building activities. DynaClass includes discussion forums which allow for students to articulate ideas in words. DynaGloss is an interactive glossary which allows for the clarification of meanings. Webguide provides personal and group negotiation support. It supports discussion, reflection, negotiation, and knowledge management. Lastly, DynaSource is an interactive bibliography where students can formalize and objectify ideas. There are many software and systems available to support collaborative knowledge building in computer-supported learning environments. It is important for computer- supported course designers to become familiar with these resources as they can provide valuable tools for students to learn collaboratively.

External Links

CSILE Website

"community of practice" Definition

ITCOLE project brochure

CSCL Definition


Gerry Stahl

International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (ijCSCL)


Innovative Technology for Collaborative Learning and Knowledge Building (ITCOLE) project. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 28, 2009 at

Sorensen, E. K. (2005). Networked elearning and collaborative knowledge building: Design and facilitation. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 4(4), 446-455.

Stahl, G. (2000). A Model of Collaborative Knowledge-Building. In B. Fishman & S. O'Connor-Divelbiss (Eds.), Fourth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 70-77). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Stahl, G. (2002). A Model of Collaborative Knowledge-Building: A Slide Presentation. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 28, 2009 at

Stahl, G. (2002).Webguide: Encouraging and Supporting Collaborative Knowledge-building: A Slide Presentation. Retrieved from the World Wide Web on February 28, 2009 at