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Expanding the metadiscourse concept


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Presentation at Knowledge Building Summer Institute 2013 in Mexico. August 7th

In Knowledge Building (KB) research, the metadiscourse concept has been taken in use more inrecent years. The concept seems to have been used mainly to inform the academic discourse and thecollective advancement of ideas. Still, there have been few attempts to define the concept in acoherent way. In this paper I discuss whether we need to expand our understanding of the concept inorder to fully understand knowledge building discourse. By using a comprehensive definition of metacommunication as a theoretical framework, I demonstrate how different kinds of “talk about talk” are present in knowledge building discourse in selected KB research papers, while not beingexplicitly described as metadiscourse. It is suggested that several new discourse elements should beincluded in the metadiscourse concept; these are explanations of intentions in the knowledge building discourse, discussions of the relationship between the participants and questions of clarification that may better capture the meta-level in the “ongoing flow” of the knowledge buildingdiscourse. In addition, one should focus more on the discourse relationship.

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Expanding the metadiscourse concept

  1. 1. Expanding the metadiscourse concept Rolf K. Baltzersen, Østfold University College, Norway
  2. 2. Background Knowledge building discourse along a timeline Metadiscourse session or meeting Metadiscourse session or meeting
  3. 3. Goal of the presentation I will try and illustrate how different kinds of “talk about talk” are present in knowledge building discourse, while not being explicitly described as metadiscourse.
  4. 4. Metacommunication (talk about talk) • 1. Questions of clarification (Short comments on the ongoing communication). • 2. Paraphrasing: restate what another person already have said in order to clarify a message («Short summarizing»). • 3. Say something about the conversational relationship. (e.g. norms or participants role or behavior)
  5. 5. 1. The ability to comment upon the meaningful actions of oneself and others is essential for successful social intercourse (Bateson 1972) What do you mean by that?
  6. 6. 1. Questions of clarification in KB discourse Teacher to the class: “Have we answered that? … Do all opaque objects reflect light?” (Zhang and Messina 2010)
  7. 7. 2. Paraphrasing as an important communication strategy in client-centered therapy
  8. 8. Paraphrasing in KB discourse (Zhang and Messina 2010) Teacher: “So you’re saying everything is reflective then, (...)”
  9. 9. Being a fulcrum URL to picture
  10. 10. How do students become Knowledge builders? • (…) I often will just reiterated, actually literally repeat what the child just said, often without even rephrasing it, I just literally repeat what they said and then another child speaks and it just keeps bouncing back and forth, (Phase 1) • and then as we go thru the year, their ability to have a discourse with less and less mediation from an adult, (Phase 2) • (1.) partly is about assessing their ability to have that kind of conversation, and • (2.) part of it is about assessing their understanding.
  11. 11. Explain conversational norms in KB discourse Zhang and Messina (2010) codes this utterance as “maintaining norms”. Teacher: “Don’t throw it back to him. Give your theory.”
  12. 12. Summary There exists metatalk in KB discourse which seems to be important, but which is not part of the metadiscourse concept: – Metadiscourse as part of the ongoing discourse? – Metadiscourse about the discourse relationship? (for example norms)
  13. 13. References • Resendes, M., Chen, B., Acosta, A., & Scardamalia, M. (2013). The Effect of Formative Feedback on Vocabulary Use and Distribution of Vocabulary Knowledge in a Grade Two Knowledge Building Class. In N. Rummel, M. Kapur, M. Nathan, & S. Puntambekar (Eds.), To See the World and a Grain of Sand Learning across Levels of Space Time and Scale CSCL 2013 Conference Proceedings Volume1 Full Papers Symposia (pp. 391 – 398). International Society of the Learning Sciences. • Van Aalst, J. (2009). Distinguishing knowledge-sharing, knowledge-construction, and knowledge-creation discourses.International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning ,4 (3), 259– 287.doi:10.1007/s11412-009-9069-5 • Zhang, J., & Messina, R. (2010). Collaborative productivity as self-sustaining processes in a grade 4knowledge building community. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences - Volume 1 (pp. 49–56). International Society of the Learning Sciences. Retrieved from • Zhang, J., Lee, J., & Wilde, J. (2012). Metadiscourse to foster collective responsibility for deepening inquiry. In J. van Aalst, K. Thompson, M. J. Jacobson, & P. Reimann (Eds.), The Future of Learning: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2012) (Full papers) (pp. 395–402). Sydney, NSW, Australia: International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS). Retrieved from