Knowledge building

Knowledge building

Knowledge Building theory was created and developed by Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia in order to describe what a community of learners need to accomplish in order to create knowledge. The theory address the need to educate people for the knowledge age society, in which knowledge and innovation are pervasive (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003).


Scardamalia & Bereiter distinguish between Knowledge building and learning. They see learning is an internal, (almost) unobservable process that results in changes of beliefs, attitudes, or skills. By contrast, Knowledge building is seen as creating or modifying public knowledge. KB is knowledge that lives ‘in the world’ and is available to be worked on and used by other people.

Knowledge building refers to the process of creating new cognitive artifacts as a result of common goals, group discussions, and synthesis of ideas. These pursuits should advance the current understanding of individuals within a group, at a level beyond their initial level of knowledge, and should be directed towards advancing the understanding of what is known about that topic or idea. The theory "encompasses the foundational learning, subskills, and socio-cognitive dynamics pursued in other approaches, along with the additional benefit of movement along the trajectory to mature education"(Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003, p.5).

Knowledge building, can be considered as "deep Constructivism (learning theory)" (Scardamalia, 2002) that involves making a collective inquiry into a specific topic 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).

One of the hallmarks of knowledge building is a sense of "we" superseding the sense of "I", a feeling that the group is operating collectively and not just as an assemblage of individuals. A wide variety of discussion software can enable such an environment, one being Knowledge Forum, which supports many of the prerequisite processes of knowledge building. Bereiter "et al." (1997, p.12) state that knowledge building projects focus on understanding instead of accomplishing tasks and on 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, 2003, p. 13).

Setting children on a knowledge building trajectory is a promising foundation for education in the knowledge age. (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003)

In their article on "Collective Cognitive Responsibility for the advancement of Knowledge" Scardemalia proposes 12 principles of knowledge building.

Principles of knowledge building

Scardamalia (2002) identifies twelve principles of Knowledge Building as follows:

# Real ideas and authentic problems. In the classroom as a knowledge building community, learners are concerned with understanding based on their real problems in real world.
# Improvable ideas. Students’ ideas are regarded as improvable objects.
# Idea diversity. In the classroom, the diversity of ideas raised by students is necessary.
# Rise above. Through a sustained improvement of ideas and understanding, students create higher level concepts.
# Epistemic agency. Students themselves find their way in order to advance.
# Community knowledge, collective responsibility. Students’ contribution to improving their collective knowledge in the classroom is the primary purpose of the knowledge building classroom.
# Democratizing knowledge. All individuals are invited to contribute to the knowledge advancement in the classroom.
# "Symmetric knowledge advancement." A goal for knowledge building communities is to have individuals and organizations actively working to provide a reciprocal advance of their knowledge.
# Pervasive knowledge building. Students contribute to collective knowledge building.
# Constructive uses of authoritative sources. All members, including the teacher, sustain inquiry as a natural approach to sustain their understanding.
# Knowledge building discourse. Students are engaged in discourse to share with each other, and to improve the knowledge advancement in the classroom.
# Concurrent, embedded and transformative assessment. Students take a global view of their understanding then decide how to approach their assessments. They create and engage in assessments in a variety of ways.

See also

* Educational psychology
* Knowledge Forum proprietary Knowledge Building tool.
* Fle3 - Future Learning Environment - open source, web-based learning environment with Knowledge Building tool.
* Knowledge building communities


Bereiter, C. (1994). Implication of postmodernism for science education: A critique. Educational Psychologist, 29(1), 3-12.

Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1993). Surpassing ourselves: An inquiry into the nature and implications of expertise. Chicago, IL: Open Court.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2003). 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; Retrieved from

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

Oshima, J. Information Processing Center (2005). Progressive Refinement of a CSCL-Based Lesson Plan for Improving Student Learning as Knowledge Building in the Period for the Integrated Study. Proceedings of the 2005 conference on Computer support for collaborative learning.

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.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge Building. In J. W. Guthrie (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition (pp.). New York: Macmillan Reference, USA. Retrieved from

External links

* [ Fle3 Learning Environment] - Fle3 is an open source online tool for knowledge building
* [ K3 Forum] - German Open source platform for collaboration, communication, e-learning and knowledge building

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