Successful pedagogies for inquiry and knowledge building


How do teachers design KB lessons

What you will find on this page:

Every teacher can design their own knowledge building activities, yet this does not necessarily mean the existing curriculum needs to be abandoned. The first time Ms. Sin conducted knowledge building, she integrated the “Knowledge Forum” into her class’ composition activities. The original activities were maintained before students were asked to express their opinions online via Knowledge Forum, extending discussion.

Below we will introduce the design of three teachers. Click on the links to your right for more detailed pedagogies. You may identify with the experience of these teachers, but every teacher has a unique design that matches his/her teaching style and students’ needs.

Incorporating the five key basic processes of KB:
General Studies - “World of Plants”

Mr Tang arranged knowledge building activities for his Primary 4 students in the module “World of Plants”. He first taught students how to raise questions of different levels. He then provided books and videos to arouse students’ interest in the topic and asked students to prepare the text for the class. Students reported on what they have already known and collated what they did not understand and wanted to know. This was followed by group discussion to identify the question most worthy of inquiry. Students needed to report on the identified question and the reasons behind. Among those questions, the class picked three to be discussed on Knowledge Forum. Mr Tang also summarized the challenges he encountered in the knowledge building process and how he tackled them.

Mr Tang’s design matches with the basic pedagogical pattern for knowledge building proposed by the KBTN research team. He has incorporated the five key basic processes of knowledge building in his design.

Gradual development of students’ KB abilities:
General Studies - "Forest and Sustainability"

Ms Tse used a design different from Mr Tang’s to achieve the five key basic processes of knowledge building with her class of Primary 4 students at HKUGA Primary School. She also used various resources to stimulate her students’ interest in the topic.

The key characteristic of Ms Tse’s design is the gradual development of knowledge building abilities through the order of activities. She first allowed students to familiarize with the online discussion platform and the learning culture, then taught students to learn to formulate questions, build on each other to gain a deeper understanding of the problem, and learn how to use scaffolds, etc. Lastly, she taught students how to reference notes, rise-above and summarize ideas, and improve ideas, notes, etc.

Below are video clips taken during one of Ms Tse’s lesson:

To introduce the module, Ms Tse used a short documentary clip to arouse students’ interest. Students needed to identify the problem and the causes depicted in the clip. Ms Tse then asked students to write on the worksheet how they would solve the problem if they were ecologists.

Students were put into groups and asked to share their theories within the group. The group members worked together to identify the problem and the possible causes. They needed to examine which group member’s theory was more justified and how to complement each other’s theory.

The groups integrated the ideas and reported in class. Ms Tse highlighted the important concepts and keywords during presentations. She used the sharing of ideas in class to stimulate the discussion on Knowledge Forum. She posted a main question on Knowledge Forum and asked students to respond to each others’ ideas, but students could also raise their own question. Ms Tse reminded students to continue their discussion at home and to keep improving their notes.

To make learning more interesting and to gain a deeper understanding of the problem, Ms Tse arranged a demonstration of the simulation program in class. Before the demonstration, Ms Tse asked students to make predictions of the result of the simulation, so students could form their own opinions first. Some students were asked to share their predictions in class and other students were asked to listen to their classmates’ ideas.

During the demonstration, Ms Tse raised questions and asked students to give comments. The discussion of the result of the simulation and the classmates’ ideas was carried out on Knowledge Forum after class.

Ms Tse already has five years of experience in the application of knowledge building. In the five years, she kept accumulating experience, reflecting and refining her pedagogical design. Click here for Ms Tse’s five detailed pedagogies. Moreover, Ms Tse shared about her growth and changes through the application of knowledge building at the “Successful pedagogies for inquiry and knowledge building: Teachers’ learning journeys and assessment tools” on 18 Feb 2012. Click here for Ms Tse’s sharing.

Facilitation of student reflection and Appropriate teacher intervention:
Primary Chinese Language - "Hong Kong Kids"

Tim Wong is a primary school Chinese Language teacher who is already in his third year of conducting knowledge building in the classroom. He has been applying knowledge building from a lesson module to a week and finally to a year when he integrated knowledge building into the Chinese learning curriculum as a whole. Initially, Tim had heard about knowledge building through other teachers, and was interested to attempt it himself. After gaining a better understanding of what knowledge building was later on, he also learnt about the notion behind the Knowledge Forum and what sets it apart from other online discussion platforms. Tim felt that such style of teaching concept when applied to Chinese Language learning would elicit excellent outcomes. Below is an introduction to how Tim designed his knowledge building curriculum on the topic "Hong Kong Kids".

How do students construct new knowledge in class and on the Knowledge Forum

The learning stages for the theme of “Hong Kong Kids” are quite clear. Students first learned how to construct their own opinions, how to use scaffolds to respond to questions, how to decide what is good discussion and which questions are worth further exploration, how to look at questions from different viewpoints and establish multiple perspectives, how to summarize learning outcomes and experience, and lastly, how to peer assess reflection journals.

During KB classes, students took aspects of the “Hong Kong Kids” phenomenon they wanted to explore and wrote them onto poster paper before using scaffolds to answer the questions. They used Post-It notes to respond to their group members’ comments. In the end, the leader from each group selected a single question most worthy of further exploration and posted it onto the Knowledge Forum. Cooperation of different individuals led to the different views expressed as to the why “Hong Kong Kids” exist, and contribution from everyone for their groups. All expressed their own opinions, whether these were fellow agreements, elaborations, or other perspectives on the matter. Students also looked at other groups’ notes to peer assess, starting heading toward the main outcomes, looking at the best discussion threads worthy of deeper exploration.

How Tim encouraged discussion

Tim printed out one group of students’ notes from the Knowledge Forum and asked his students during KB class to peer evaluate each group’s notes. They then took part in inter-group discussion on the Knowledge Forum. Once the discussions reached their limits and new ideas can no longer be generated, the teacher would arrange for the students to interview guests, allowing them to gain new perspectives on the issue of “Hong Kong Kids”. Such guests included the principal, social workers, and professionals from the accounting industry as well as Reuters. Finally, students continued to discuss on the Knowledge Forum, and reported their experience of learning about “Hong Kong Kids” in their reflection journals.

How Tim intervene

At the beginning when Tim was guiding discussion, the Knowledge Forum notes formed an octopus-like structure, as his notes served as the centerpiece for the discussion. After developing a deeper understanding of knowledge building and exchange with other teachers in the network, Tim began to let his students lead discussion instead, hence all the notes in the Knowledge Forum at that point were written by students. Tim also discovered that if students came across a particularly difficult problem during discussion, but one worthy of exploring further, the teacher could mark that particular question to attract other students’ attention. He circled all questions deserving of discussion within the Knowledge Forum in red without telling the students what the red marks meant. Subsequently, Tim found that students began to attempt responding to these questions. The teacher’s role is to remind students to pay attention to any neglected points that may actually be worth discussion.

Tim’s design for the topic "Hong Kong Kids" was briefly described in the above. Click here for Tim’s detailed pedagogies. Moreover, Tim’s students shared about their learning and growth in this module on the presentation day of the KB Award Scheme competition. Click here for the students’ sharing on their personal growth.

Detailed Pedagogies

Teacher A

Mr Tim Wong

Ms Hidy Tse