Knowledge Building Centers

Campbell, Margaret

Bereiter, C. & Scadarmalia, M. (2010).”Can children really create knowledge?” Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 36(1), 1-15. Retrieved from
The authors examine what it really means for school children to create public knowledge, what real ideas and authentic problems are as opposed to copied ideas and problems that only add to learning (instead of contributing to community). This discussion is not focused on the cognitive aspects of learning, but on solving problems that bring value to people, have enduring value, have applications beyond the situations that sparked the problem, and show elements of creativity or unique approach. The authors also distinguish between productive knowledge and the knowledge that just lets students know how to answer prefab problems; productive knowledge is a concept that can replace the idea of “mastery,” which has little practical meaning in current times when the increases in knowledge are so rapid. The article demonstrates how children at all ages and intellectual levels can participate in practical knowledge building, which moves them from simply preparing for life after school to actually contributing to life from the first year of school.
The Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology and these two authors in particular have written a series of detailed articles about knowledge building and knowledge building centers. The references for this article are a treasure trove of information for this new way of designing learning environments. Also, in addition to the theoretical discussions, the paper includes many examples from student work in order to explain the differences between the knowledge types.

PS I originally found this article during a search through last semester’s archive for ET. However, the article referenced in the archive had incorrect spellings for the authors names and no journal date, so I did not include the reference as it was written in the archive. The title was intriguing, and that is why I tried to find the article. I was able to locate it after a search through the Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, which also turned up many more terrific articles on this and other topics. I highly recommend the journal.

Below is the text of the review from the archive:

Posted by Elizabeth Goode – 
I wanted to include this article because I found that a lot of articles discussing Knowledge Building Centers referred back to works by Berieter and Scadamalia, but also because the article discusses what knowledge building is truthfully trying to attain, which is the creation of new knowledge and not the attainment of already established knowledge that students solely have to build on in a stepping stone fashion without any new insights. I also wanted to include it, because at the end of the article the authors include a number or different teaching methods or theories that are similar to knowledge building centers. I thought it made a nice introduction to these other theories and opened it up for more research. 

"Race to Nowhere"

Campbell, Margaret

Abeles, V. & Congdon, J. [Film]. “Race to Nowhere”
Below is my review, and below this is a review from Nicole Chiodo 5-17-11. 
“Race to Nowhere” is ranked as top documentary film about education and a call for change in America’s schools. The 85-minute film features stories of students who are over-scheduled, over-tested and pressured to achieve at all costs. The film shows an educational system which creates situations that encourage cheating, where students are not engaged, stressed, depressed, and tired of classrooms. The learning environments portrayed in the film do not prepare students for college or the workplace.
“Race to Nowhere” has inspired a movement for change including: national speakers to bring the conversation to communities, online petitions, a discussion board, advocacy tools, Facebook and Twitter conversations, a National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing, and a tool kit for activists.

Nicole Chiodo’ review from 5-17-11 
I personally have not had an opportunity (yet) to view a screening of this film, but I wanted to share it in the hope that others will have an opportunity to see a screening. Interestingly, I heard about this film from my dentist who saw a screening of it at her son’s high school. She raved about how enlightening it was and how interesting to see the current state of our public schools and the students therein. There haven’t been any screenings near me in the last few months, but it touches on a lot of the subjects under discussion in this class. After hearing my dentist’s glowing review and reading the website, I look forward to seeing it at some point, and I hope some of you will enjoy it as well!

Three Re-Design Approaches for Project-Based Learning

Campbell, Margaret
Kanter, D. E. (2010). Doing the project and learning the content: Designing project-based science curricula for meaningful understanding. Science Education, 94(3), 525-551.
Students do not often gain meaningful understanding when they are assigned projects to design or make something. The author reports on instructional solutions to this problem. 
Evidence from some studies points to project-based science (PBS) as the most effective way to teach standards-based science. However, the goal of science instruction, beyond standards accountability, is that students be able to positively transfer learned, science-based concepts in order to solve novel problems. The author presents a series of systematic experiment approaches that can be applied to any science instruction. The system of analysis used by the author to discover possible techniques to improve meaningful learning from PBS is very similar to the “understanding by design,” backwards design, or reverse engineering concept.
Although the author does quite a bit of qualifying the encouraging research results in the discussion portion of the paper, many of the techniques can be incorporated into a science project curriculum and bring enough improvement to make experimenting with these techniques, worth the effort.
The first redesign, creating a demand (within the student) for unfamiliar content, addresses the problem of a student not understanding why they have to know certain content in order to do a project, before they do the project. The old way asks a student to trust that the instructor is steering them in the right direction. The recommended redesign uses three approaches (unpacking the task, highlighting the incongruity, and trying to apply) in order to stimulate student understanding of why they might need to know something. 
The second redesign, applying all the content, addresses the problem of a student realizing that the content they are required to study may be relevant to the project, but not necessary for the project to be successfully completed. The old way simply required the student to learn the target content, whether or not the content was essential for the project. The recommended redesign refocuses the project requirements from asking students to discover the solution to a problem through experimentation to asking students to reinvent a process. Reinvention seemed to apply more of the science content than other methods, and this surprised the author.
The third redesign, applying all the content in time, addresses the problem of overly heavy cognitive load when too much time elapses between content learning and content integration and application. The old way was to learn content and then participate in a project over time that led to a “capstone” event. The recommended redesign is to divide projects into pieces that successively build upon the knowledge and experience gained in each previous “piece.”

Developing standards-based curricula and assessments

Espinoza, Maria 

Clarke, N. A., Stow, S., Ruebling, C., & Kayona, F. (2006). Developing standards-based curricula and assessments. Clearing House, 79(6), 258-261.

Summary: The article talks about a new model for curriculum development, which is called “Process Leads to Products.” It goes step by step as to how the teachers will go through this model and it also gives some advices like having defined goals, the types of assessments the teachers can use as well as having the instructional leaders (which are the ones that supervise the implementation of curriculum and assessments) to be involve in the development of the curriculum so they understand it and make sure it is being followed.

Evaluation: In my opinion, the article is very descriptive and gives most of the information needed (there is always something left out even if the authors tried their best). I also found it useful because I didn’t know how curriculum was planned or how the goals and objectives were selected so it gave me a better idea of how it’s done.

Free PDF – Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses…

Campbell, Margaret

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. [Report, Instructional Development Program, University of Oklahoma].


This is a 34-page report, published by the author of Creating Significant Learning Experiences in College Classrooms. (2003). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. This author’s book and report were cited in one of the articles that I read on flipped classroom design as being instrumental in causing a desire to improve classroom design. The report is an outline of steps to take in order to design an effective class or course and includes backward design (understanding by design) and a strong focus on instructor reflection as part of the design process.


The step-by-step approach is helpful for getting “right to the point” of improving instruction. Because it was written in 2003, there are some aspects of the plans that do not take advantage of all the Web 2.0 collaborative possibilities that we enjoy in 2012. However, the basics for doing an analysis of one’s practice and one’s learning experience design are presented in both text and easy-to-follow charts. I found the report’s style of asking questions in order to get the instructor thinking about topics particularly effective. Also, some of the charts are simple and are available elsewhere…but some of the charts, especially the charts for organizing structured sequences and flipped classroom activities, helped to make some of the complex processes of learning activity design much more practical.

Tiscornia, Chole’

Brown, A., & Meyers, M. (2008). Bringing in the Boys: Using the Theory of Multiple Intelligences to Plan Programs that Appeal to Boys. Children & Libraries, 6(1), 4-9.

If you are a fan of the concept of multiple intelligences, yet have difficulty implementing the intelligences into library programming, then this article will help you. Youth librarians, Amy Brown &  Molly Meyers provide many program ideas to tie activities to reading that reach all learning intelligences. Building on Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Brown & Meyers offer a myriad of programming that not only encourages reading, but encourages reading in young boys. A helpful reference list for further exploration of the programs and multiple intelligence theory is included as well as this link:  to their personal Wiki. It includes multiple intelligence programming details and directions as well as other resources.

Flipped Classroom and Team-Based Learning

Campbell, Margaret

Demetry, C. (2010). Work in progress – An innovation merging “classroom flip” and team-based learning. 2010 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), T1E-1 – T1E-2. doi: 10.1109/FIE.2010.5673617 
This brief, two-page report describes two versions of a flipped classroom used in an introductory engineering classroom (~125 students). The engineering curriculum is typically heavy on content that, in the past, has not allowed for the use of classroom time for higher-order problem solving. This report describes two ways that the instructor transferred the foundation learning to outside-of-class activities by using pre-recorded multimedia lectures. In addition, the instructor includes reflections on the process of evaluating and improving upon instructional methods.

An extremely valuable part of this article is the reference section. In the article text, the instructor mentions that the inspiration for improving the instructional design and trying the flipped classroom came from the book, Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses by L. Dee Fink. I include a summary and evaluation of a PDF from this book on another post.
The value of this article is the very clear and succinct description of exactly how the instructor redesigned the instruction, the table showing the goals and strategies, and the outline of the methods used to measure the effectiveness of the changes. 

Teachers’ perceptions on teacher and school librarian collaboration

Costa, Annie

Summary: Montiel-Overall and Jones’ study “Teacher and School Librarian Collaboration: A preliminary report of teachers’ perceptions about frequency and importance to student learning” indicates that teacher and school librarian collaboration is essential to teaching and student learning. 194 teachers participated in the study. “Teachers are more engaged with school librarians in the types of collaborative activities which are generally considered traditional practices than those considered high-level collaboration” (2005, p. 68).  School librarians help teachers by locating library resources and resources for lessons. But teachers do not perceive that “they frequently engage in collaborative endeavors, which school librarians consider to be integral to school librarians’ responsibilities” (2005, p. 68).   

Evaluation: I’m surprised with the findings.  It is interesting that teachers do not have the strong perception of teacher and school librarian partnership.  There should be more studies to investigate teacher perceptions as to why they do not frequently collaborate with school librarians that are essential to teaching and student learning. 

Montiel-Overall , P. & Jones, P. (2011, March). Teacher and School Librarian Collaboration: A Preliminary Report of Teachers’ Perceptions about Frequency and Importance to Student Learning. Canadian Journal of Information & Library Sciences, 35(1), 49-76. Retrieved from

Coteaching in High School Classrooms

Baugess, Sasha

Sheehy, K. (2012, September 26). High school notes: Two high school teachers may be better than one. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from

Summary: Sheehy discusses the methods and benefits of collaboration within a high school classroom. In most cases, the team consists of a special education teacher and an instructor specializing in specific general education areas such as math or science. Within the classroom, students are grouped with others of similar learning paces, allowing the coaches to address each group at its own pace. This allows for students with learning disabilities to take the same classes as their peers, as well as for students who may have had difficulty understanding the main lesson and accelerated students all to excel within the same classroom. Moreover, having two teachers in the classroom eases the strain on both teachers and helps prevent burnout. Sheehy points out that some teachers have experienced difficulties giving up sole control of their classrooms, but that most overcome those difficulties when they see the benefits to be had.

Evaluation:Sheehy makes excellent arguments for the implementation of coteaching in high school classrooms. It makes perfect sense that students at all levels would perform better with more individualized attention. Additionally, it seems to me that students working more closely with their instructors–and in smaller groups–would feel more comfortable in their learning environment and therefore retain even more information. It’s also nice that Sheehy addresses some of the problems associated with coteaching. However, the biggest question that comes to mind for me is how, in a time when most school districts are struggling to fill their schools with the bare minimum of teachers, can we implement this idea financially?

Integration of Students with learning difficulties

Espinoza, Maria

Dube, F., Bessette, L., & Dorval, C. (2011). Differentiation and explicit teaching: Integration of students with learning difficulties. US-China Education Review B, 2, 167-184. doi: 1548-6613
Summary: Using flexible grouping and explicit teaching, the school divided all six years into three cycles and then into subgroups before implementing the program.  All three cycles showed a reduction of errors in activity 1 and 2 but on activity 3 it went up (however, it was still lower than the errors they got in activity 1.  After seeing the results, it seems that using these two approaches can benefit students with difficulties.
Evaluation: I found this article very informative because it not only looks into differentiation but also explains flexible grouping (which makes subgroups to compliment the students’ needs) and explicit teaching (which helps the student know more about their difficulties and get self-confidence through modeling, guided practice and independent practice).  It also very descriptive about how these approaches were used and allows the reader to duplicate their study