Successful pedagogies for inquiry and knowledge building


A basic pedagogical pattern for KB

In order to conduct knowledge building (KB) in education, KB principles, of course, must be applied; yet it is not simply an issue that can be solved through a theoretical approach. At the same time, the requirements of lessons and assessments in different regions vary, so success in foreign countries cannot be generalized to local practices; local teachers therefore have to summarize their experiences based on their own practices, before reflecting on them to construct more suitable KB methodologies and designs. The University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Information Technology in Education has implemented a number of relevant KB designs, in addition to accumulating the experience of many participating teachers across the years.

As a result, the “Knowledge Building Teachers Network” (KBTN) research team has come up with a basic pedagogy for knowledge building. This teaching pattern describes what a complete KB teaching process must include. By presenting such a model, we hope to provide a simple introduction to knowledge building instruction as well as an appropriate framework for those who wish to refine the design of their knowledge building lessons. This framework can also be used for exchange, sharing, comparison or research of different knowledge building classes.


Generate inquiry questions

Inquiry has to start with the generation of inquiry questions. It is for the teacher to decide how to generate and who is responsible for generating those inquiry questions. In knowledge building, the responsibility often lies with the students.

Allowing students to generate their own inquiry questions helps teachers identify problems/aspects that the students really care about (i.e. real ideas, authentic problems).

good Qs
for inquiry

Identify good questions for inquiry

Not all questions are equally valuable or conducive to developing an engaging discourse for inquiry. Therefore, there has to be a mechanism for teachers or students to identify the good ones among the many questions.

F2F and

F2F and online discussion

Discussions on those questions can be face-to-face or online, and the outcome is often best when both are used. Students begin to develop their own culture or etiquette within the Knowledge Forum. The discussion environment must be psychologically safe, so students are willing to take the risk of sharing their ideas (i.e. improvable ideas) and the responsibility of producing ideas (i.e. community knowledge, collective responsibility).

Students share their ideas by building on each other’s notes (i.e. democratizing knowledge) and linking and expanding ideas to make productive use of diversity (i.e. idea diversity). They set forth their ideas and negotiate for a common ground between personal ideas and ideas of others, using contrasts to spark and sustain knowledge advancement rather than depending on others to chart the course for them (i.e. epistemic agency).


Identify good discussion

What is a good discussion? What kind of contribution advances community knowledge and understanding? There has to be a mechanism for teachers or students to identify fruitful discussion threads and to distinguish the different ideas and sidetracks.

One of the criteria for a good discussion can be the ability to understand and to think critically about the updated knowledge in the discussion topic (i.e. constructive uses of authoritative sources). Also, a good discussion has to be one that results in refining the knowledge rather than mere sharing of knowledge (i.e. knowledge building discourse).



Throughout the KB process, students have to review progress regularly by reflecting upon individual and group learning through writing reflection journals or developing learning portfolios (i.e. embedded and transformative assessment).

Finally, there needs to be a consolidation of what has been learnt and what remains for further inquiry, so students can move on to the next stage. To consolidate, students have to work with diversity, complexity and messiness, summarize and evaluate what has been learnt to achieve new syntheses, formulate higher level of problems and solutions, giving rise above current best practices (i.e. rise above).

Example of incorporating the key basic processes of knowledge building into teaching

In the above, the five key basic processes of knowledge building, which is also regarded a basic pedagogical pattern for knowledge building, were discussed. The "How do teachers design KB lessons" section has included several detailed pedagogies, which help explain how different teachers design their lessons to achieve the key basic processes. One of them is a generic knowledge building pedagogy. This pedagogical design makes use of simple activities to implement the knowledge building pedagogical pattern in General Studies. It describes the kind of activities and type of facilitation teachers can use to achieve the five key basic processes. Click here for the generic KB pedagogy.