Where Is Knowledge Building Headed

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Keynote given by Professor Carl Bereiter at 2011 Knowledge Building Summer Institute in Guangzhou, China.

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Where Is Knowledge Building Headed

  1. 1. Where is Knowledge Building Heading? Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia Institute for Knowledge Innovation and Technology University of Toronto Knowledge Building Summer Institute Guangzhou, China July 9, 2011
  2. 2. OutlineKnowledge Building: A brief introductionA broader mission: Building cultural capacity for innovationLearning innovation by doing it Wider range of innovating activities Classroom as a center of creative cultureTheory development and theory improvement Knowledge Building becomes the heart of the curriculum Theory development not only in science Explanatory coherence and “rising above” Idea-centered evaluation at the group level Inter-group competition and comparisonThe BCCI vision: A worldwide knowledge-creating civilization thatvalues cultural differences
  3. 3. Knowledge Building The term is currently used in more than a million web documents, but seldom defined. Our definition:Knowledge building is producing knowledge of valueto a community, and continually improving it.• Synonymous with “knowledge creation” (Nonaka)• Common in knowledge-based organizations of all kinds;rare in schools.
  4. 4. Knowledge BuildingMember of the large family of constructivistapproaches to educationIf compelled to put into one sentence whatis different:giving students collective responsibilityfor idea improvement
  5. 5. Knowledge BuildingIn Knowledge Building all ideas areassumed to be improvableEngineers and designers do not evencontemplate the possibility of a final state ofperfection(Petroski, 2003).Knowledge building students and teachersdon’t either.
  6. 6. What “Innovation” Means in Today’s WorldNo one seriously advocates innovation for its own sake. Incurrent usage, “innovation” stands for a cluster ofconcepts that include  Invention  Discovery  Knowledge creation  Problem solving  EntrepreneurshipTogether these constitute the creative aspect of progress,progress achieved through the production and applicationof new knowledge.
  7. 7. Innovation is not just about new ways to make moneyInnovation is needed for economic progress, but…The need for new knowledge, new solutions, extends wellbeyond the economic sphere.Homer-Dixon (2000, 2006) has documented the need fornew knowledge that will enable societies to deal with ahost of urgent and increasingly complex problems—problems of health, environment, resources, crime,corruption, and oppression.One of the most pressing needs is for knowledge of howto deal with complexity itself.
  8. 8. Innovativeness is becoming recognized as a cultural issueGovernments can do only so much by establishinginnovation centers, providing stimulus funds, andremoving barriers.Beyond that it depends on the innovativeness of thepeople.Innovativeness is probably not in the genes, but it iscertainly in the culture.It is in how people are brought up—to be seekers andrisk-takers or to be followers and risk-avoiders.
  9. 9. Knowledge Building as a platform for developing innovativenessLearning to innovate by innovating Innovation in disciplinary knowledge: theory building Innovation in engineering: e.g., Learning by Design (Kolodner) Entrepreneurship: e.g., Junior Achievement Innovation in the artsClassroom becomes a miniature home for the “creativeclass” (Richard Florida)
  10. 10. Knowledge Building retains its major focus on theory buildingTheory building is where education for innovation anddisciplinary learning come togetherTheory building can enrich the study of history, socialstudies, and literature—as well as science andmathematicsTheories are not beliefs but constructions and toolsTheory improvement takes precedence over truth andevidenceExplanatory coherence (Thagard) is the goal
  11. 11. Innovation ~ Idea Improvement ~ “Rising Above”Producing new ideas is easy (at least for children)Improving ideas is hardA “rise-above” is not a summary, it is a synthesisSignificant innovation requires sustained creative workwith ideasSchools typically fail on the “sustained” part, the “work”part, and the “ideas” part--and confine the “creative” partto expressive media
  12. 12. Idea-centered Evaluation at the Group LevelIn a culture of innovation, knowledge advancement at the group levelcounts for as much or more than knowledge advancement at theindividual level (Stahl)Group-level assessment traces the emergence and spread of ideasAssessment should help to motivate and guide collaborativeknowledge buildingInter-group competition and comparisonDifferent groups may produce essentially the same theory, but withdifferences in formulation that call for “rising above”
  13. 13. The BCCI VisionBuilding cultural capacity for innovation, starting in earlychildhood and making use of all cultural resources both inand out of schoolYoung people as junior members of a knowledge-creatingcivilizationOne civilization, many cultures
  14. 14. BCCI Goals for StudentsTo become more innovative in today’s world, societies must develop learners who 1. are socialized into a world-wide knowledge-creating culture 2. have distinctive ways of contributing to innovation 3. are well grounded in science and humanities and appreciate their importance in a progressive society 4. are willing to work at improving their own and their community’s ideas 5. are able to thrive on complexity and idea diversity
  15. 15. These goals represent major challengesfor Knowledge BuildingAlthough goal 3, education in the disciplines, receivesconsiderable attention in the learning sciences, and goal 5,thriving on complexity and idea diversity, is beginning toreceive more attention, the remaining goals are largelyneglected:  socialization into a world-wide knowledge-creating culture  development of distinctive ways of contributing to innovation  willingness to work at improving own ideas and the community’s ideas
  16. 16. Acculturation: Socialization into a World- wide Knowledge-creating Culture A knowledge-creating culture already exists in every developed and developing nation. Like the sports culture, it is not dominant in any nation but it cuts across national boundaries and is committed to progress. Schools know how to promote a culture of continuous progress in sports, one that almost all students identify with and support. They need to do the same with a culture of continuous advancement of knowledge frontiers. Just as not everyone needs to be a star athlete in a sports culture, not everyone needs to be a star innovator in a knowledge-creating culture.
  17. 17. Multiple and Individuated Ways of Contributing In a sports culture everyone can contribute, even if it is only by cheering for the home team. A knowledge-creating culture needs cheerleaders and a cheering section too. It also needs critics and question-askers. Knowledge Building should help students develop distinctive personal ways of contributing to creative work with knowledge. These become distinctive talents that graduates can carry with them into the job market. As with a sports team, the whole is strengthened by the diversity of individual strengths.
  18. 18. Disciplinary Education and Socialization The boundaries between disciplines are not “artificial.” Knowledge building in the disciplines should embrace “thinking like a chemist”--like a historian, a lawyer, a literary critic, a mathematician, and so on. Understanding what this means is a worthwhile focus of metacognitive inquiry in every school subject. Understanding evolution is an important goal; so is understanding what it means to understand evolution.
  19. 19. Idea Improvement Mindset: Students work at improving their own and their community’s ideas Essential for a successful knowledge-creating culture. Idea improvement should be inculcated as a value. Delay of judgment about truth is an essential component of the idea improvement mindset.  Jung’s “perceiving” vs. “judging” personality types.  When should judging have priority over seeking improvements? Students need tools and methods for idea improvement. Is this a place for “scripting”?
  20. 20. Thriving on Complexity and Idea Diversity Knowledge advances almost always involve increase in complexity, even when the end result is simplification. Throughout history the main obstacle to intellectual progress has been stubborn adherence to simpler ideas. Complexity needs to become an object of inquiry in schools, but that isn’t enough. Oversimplification is an important concept for students engaged in Knowledge Building. Needlessly complex is also helpful.

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