Citekey: @Hakkarainen2003a

Hakkarainen, K. (2003). Emergence of progressive-inquiry culture in computer-supported collaborative learning. Learning Environments Research, 6(2), 199–220. doi:10.1023/a:1024995120180



ABSTRACT. The study focused on analysing the emergence of a progressive-inquiry culture in two CSILE (Computer-Supported Intentional Learning Environment) classrooms across a three-year period. A principal feature of this kind of culture is the processing of explanatory knowledge instead of merely factual knowledge. The results of the study indicate that the classroom culture changed over the three years following the introduction of CSILE. The explanatory level of knowledge produced by the students became increasingly deeper in tracking from the first to third year. In one of the classrooms, the children’s levels of explanation reached substantial depth as we pass from year 1 to year 3; here the difference on this temporal variable was large and significant. In this classroom, the students’ inquiry was more and more explicitly focused on construction of their own intuitive explanations, as well as the search for explanatory scientific information. Progress in inquiry culture emerged only through the teacher’s extended efforts to expand students’ practices of progressive inquiry. (p. 199)

The problem addressed in the study was whether primary school children, collaborating within a computer-supported classroom, can profitably come to participate in a research-like processes of inquiry (i.e. approach the problems being investigated according to deepening levels of explanation rather that being bound with surface phenomena and processing merely factual information). (p. 199)

The system provides students with a shared space for building, sharing and discussing of their ideas, whether in written or visual form. (p. 199)

In the present study, the sustained process of advancing and building knowledge is called progressive inquiry (Hakkarainen, 1998; Hakkarainen & Sintonen, 2002). (p. 200)

Further, there is evidence that participation in an extended process of shared inquiry fosters children’s ability to ask complex questions (Brown & Campione, 1996). (p. 200)

An important aspect of inquiry and a critical condition of developing conceptual understanding is generation of explanations and theories for the phenomena being investigated (Bruner, 1996; Carey & Smith, 1995; Dunbar & Klahr, 1988; Perkins et al., 1995; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1993; Schwartz, 1995). The process of explanation increases understanding by pushing an agent to explicate the consequences of his or her view; it provides new information needed for answering an agent’s why and how questions and achieving his or her cognitive goals. (p. 200)

Yet students’ own explanations, hypotheses or conjectures do not have a significant role in current educational practices. Through explanation-driven learning, both intuitive and scientific ideas can be made the focus of inquiry (Bereiter, 2002; Scardamalia, 1999). (p. 200)

Research evidence indicates that computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) is one of the most promising innovations for increasing the quality of education with the help of modern information and communication technologies (Lehtinen, Hakkarainen, Lipponen, Rahikainen & Muukkonen, 1998; Pea et al., 1999; Roschelle & Pea, 1999). This pedagogical approach emphasises the importance of engaging students and teachers in coordinated efforts to build new knowledge and to solve problems together (Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye & O’Malley, 1996). (p. 201)

We propose that the agent of progressive inquiry is not an individual, but a knowledge-building community (Bereiter, 2002; Paavola et al., 2002; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1999). This kind of community does not usually emerge spontaneously; it needs to be deliberately cultivated. (p. 201)

The key to the successful implementation of a knowledge-building community appears to be the building of a supporting social infrastructure around the technical infrastructure (Bielaczyc, 2001). Rather than focusing on only the collaborative technology, one has to address the social contexts critical for supporting meaningful implementation and use of technology. (p. 201)

role of teacher and tech
important comment on the social infrastructure (p. 201)

The study was based on our position that research on computer-supported collaborative learning cannot be grounded on qualitative discussion of “a few engaging anecdotes or particularly exciting transcripts” (Brown, 1992, p. 173), but systematic study of the epistemological and cognitive nature of inquiries across all participants and a representative selection of situations. (p. 202)

  1. METHOD (p. 202)

The subjects were all of the students in two CSILE classes. During the three-year period analysed, 145 students in total worked with CSILE in one of the groups. (p. 202)

There were two teachers, whom we shall call Teacher A and Teacher B, corresponding to the two classrooms. (p. 203)

2.2. Study Material: The CSILE Database (p. 203)

Their written productions from CSILE’s database were analysed through qualitative content analysis (Chi, 1997). For qualitative classification, in order to make a reliable classification of the material possible, CSILE students’ notes were first partitioned into ideas (regarding segmentation of data for content analysis; see Chi, 1997). (p. 204)

The epistemological nature of the students’ research questions was analysed by classifying each research question according to whether it was factor explanation-seeking in nature. Why and how questions are typical explanation-seeking questions and cannot be satisfactorily answered without elaborating an explanation. Who, where, when, how many, and some what questions represented fact-seeking questions that can be answered by providing factual information concerning, for example, persons, things, places, times or numbers. (p. 204)

mean level of explanation was analysed across students’ productions representing their intuitive conceptions and scientific information sought by them. Each content idea constructed by the students to answer their research questions was classified using a five-step scale starting from (1) separated pieces of facts to (5) explanation (p. 205)

Finally, in order to analyse a CSILE student’s relation to his or her productions, I analysed whether he or she expressed personal ownership or involvement of their content ideas by using a variable called personalised epistemology. (p. 207)

The Level of Explanation Scale (p. 207)

  1. RESULTS (p. 208)

to be included in the efficacy section of KB review (p. 208)

3.1. Explanatory Level of Knowledge Processed Across a ThreeYear Period (p. 208)

A direct discriminant analysis was performed using three variables representing the nature of CSILE students’ knowledge production in biology as predictors of membership in a CSILE group. The predictors were the mean proportion of student-generated explanation-seeking research questions, the mean level of explanation of knowledge produced in biology, and the mean proportion of personalised epistemology. A composite variable of Year and CSILE group (Classroom A, year 1 [A1]; Classroom A, year 2 [A2]; Classroom A, year 3 [A3]; Classroom B, year 1 [B1]; Classroom B, year 2 [B2]; Classroom B, year 3 [B3]) was used as a grouping variable. Three discriminant functions were calculated, with a combined χ2(15) = 207.3, p < 0.000). (p. 209)

In other words, Classroom B’s biological study projects focused on factual information and, correspondingly, lower-level fact-seeking questions, across the whole period analysed. In accordance with the focus on explanatory knowledge, inquiry in Classroom A was driven by explanation-seeking questions. (p. 210)

One predictor, namely, the proportion of personalised epistemology, had a loading of 0.79 on the second discriminant function, which partially separates the Classroom A students in year 3 from the two earlier years of the classroom, indicating that the proportion of personalised epistemology in year 3 (M = 0.70) increased substantially from that of year 1 (M = 0.10) and year 2 (M = 0.25); the mean proportion of personalised epistemology did not change in Classroom B, remaining at the 0.10 level during each year examined. (p. 210)

The analysis revealed that practices of knowledge production differed substantially between Classrooms A and B. Further, practices of knowledge processing in Classroom A progressively developed from one year to another, as an explanation-oriented process of inquiry had a more and more prominent role. The epistemological nature of knowledge processed by Classroom B, in contrast, did not substantially change; the group focused on processing factual knowledge across the whole period. (p. 211)

3.2. CSILE Experience and Level of Explanation (p. 212)

In order to analyse the effects of CSILE experience in the context of individual students, the present analysis focused on examining how knowledge was processed by a small group of CSILE students who stayed two years in the classes, and so developed from their first and to their second year of CSILE study. (p. 212)

A repeated-measures analysis of variance was conducted in order to analyse differences in the level of explanation between the groups as a function of CSILE experience. The between-subject factor was Group (Ato-A; B-to-B; A-to-B; and B-to-A) and the within-subject factor CSILE experience (one year; two years). The dependent variable was mean level of explanation in biology. (p. 212)

There was also an interaction effect for Group by CSILE Experience indicating that the effect of CSILE experience was different in each group (F[3, 19] = 12.24, p < 0.001, η2 = 0.66) (see Figure 2). (p. 213)

To summarise, the analysis revealed that the mean level of explanation increased as a function of the experience of studying in Classroom A. Simultaneously, however, CSILE students’ culture of inquiry was also changing. In order to analyse relations between individual students’ inquiry and the evolution of CSILE culture as a whole, mean levels of explanation of the students’ inquiry who studied over the two-year period were plotted over the 95% confidence intervals for mean level of explanation in the CSILE groups as a whole (see Figure 3). (p. 213)

The results indicate that an individual student’s epistemic practices and his or her classroom’s culture of inquiry were reciprocally dependent and co-evolved together. (p. 214)

3.3. Cultivating Progressive Inquiry Culture Within Classroom A (p. 214)

In order to understand Classroom A students’ extraordinary educational achievements, the present investigator interviewed Teacher A. (p. 214)

reported that he had participated in CSILE project from the very beginning and benefited substantially from a close collaboration with researchers (p. 214)

Across years, he had perfected a special method of cultivating knowledge-building culture in his class. He reported that an important condition for creating an innovative knowledge building community was that he had a split class of Grade 5 and 6 students: (p. 215)

I would take those 8–10 students to the next year, and they were peer tutors, first, in how the system actually worked but, more importantly, in how the inquiry should go (p. 215)

The teacher stated that, just like any other teacher, he did not have too much time to read students contributions or to produce his own CSILE notes. In order to solve these constraints, he created a practice that guided the students to interact orally with him and to show what they were doing whenever they wanted to ‘publish’ a note in CSILE (p. 215)

kb discourse (p. 215)

It had to make a contribution to a database, a significant contribution to a database. There had to be some evidence of thinking or knowledge building in the note. Now, in practice of course, you make allowances for different levels of ability of the student. (p. 215)

community knowledge (p. 215)

According to Teacher A’s estimation, these kinds of oral knowledge-building discussions took twice as much time as actual working with CSILE. (p. 215)

role of teacher
role of teacher and role of tech. Important note that oral discussions happen twice as much. (p. 215)

One of the concerns was to encourage students to build on earlier knowledge-building efforts: (p. 215)

A student came to me with four or five theories. I might start off by saying: “What do you think about theories that have gone before. How is yours different from those that have gone before.” A student might respond: “I do not know.” So I could say: “Maybe you could look at them, read them through and see if you agree or whether you [disagree].” (p. 215)

The teacher of Classroom A described how problems had a more and more important role in his classroom (p. 215)

As classroom processes evolved over time, it became clear to me that you could not have a regular classroom and then, for that 40 minutes, say that “we are going to do some knowledge building”. That was not going to work. So I had to use knowledge-building principles in everything that I did. . . . (p. 216)

pervasive knowledge building (p. 216)

Within these conditions, the iterative approach of working repeatedly with the same grade level appeared to facilitate progressive changes in pedagogical practices. (p. 216)

  1. DISCUSSION (p. 216)

In the two CSILE classrooms, the epistemological nature of knowledge processes changed over three years following the introduction of CSILE. In terms of the level of explanation scale, explanations made over a year by the children in their CSILE notes became deeper in tracking from year 1 to year 3. In one of the classrooms, the children’s levels of explanation reached substantial depth as one passes from year 1 to year 3 (p. 216)

The results indicated that the inquiry of the students in Classroom A was more and more explicitly focused on construction of their own intuitive explanations, as well as searching for explanatory scientific information. (p. 216)

Further, results of the study revealed that Classroom A students were engaged in a systematic generation of their own explanation-seeking re- (p. 216)

This is a significant educational achievement. CSILE studies carried out in Finland revealed that only 10% to 20% of research questions spontaneously generated by primary school students were explanation-seeking in nature (Hakkarainen et al., 2002). Although the students in Classroom B produced a significant proportion of explanation-seeking research questions, the scientific information processed by the group was at a substantially lower explanatory level than that of Classroom A. (p. 217)

An examination of the results indicates that the epistemological nature of learning tasks undertaken strongly influenced the nature of students’ process of inquiry. It was characteristic of Classroom A to conduct conceptually-challenging study projects that focused on gaining theoretical understanding of the problems being investigated, whereas Classroom B’s study projects focused on acquiring factual knowledge and empirical generalisations that usually did not go beyond everyday phenomena. (p. 217)

Further, the analysis indicated that knowledge production in Classrooms A and B was not affected by the ability level or gender of the participating students. Evidence for a significant educational achievement was that, regardless of gender or ability level, Classroom A students were able to generate explanation-seeking questions, construct intuitive explanations and introduce explanatory scientific information. (p. 217)

Because most of the children stayed in the class for one year only, the main candidates to whom both the significant effects can be attributed are the two teachers (A and B), who were the only persisting elements from year 1 to year 3. (p. 218)

Teacher B, in contrast, appears neither to be equally involved with CSILE projects nor to be engaged in similar efforts of surpassing himself. He did not draw much on research assistance and hence his classroom process reflected his usual approach to instruction, with the CSILE software simply added in. (p. 218)

It appeared to be an instance of expansive learning (Engeström, 1987) in which the teacher, with support, reflected on practices of his classroom culture, identified weaknesses and tensions of prevailing practices, and searched for novel opportunities to be pursued in the subsequent year. Creation of a culture of authentic inquiry at the primary level is extremely hard. The present investigation indicates that the current and very advanced practices emerged within Classroom A as a result of deliberate cultural transformation across several years. As pointed out by Feldman, Konold, and Coulter (2000), educational researchers tend to underestimate how much systematic effort and time it takes to transform educational practices. (p. 218)

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