Citekey: @Chan2006b

Chan, C. K. K., & van Aalst, J. (2006). Teacher Development through Computer‐supported Knowledge Building: Experience from Hong Kong and Canadian teachers. Teaching Education, 17(1), 7–26. doi:10.1080/10476210500527907



We propose a framework for designing teacher education courses premised on the knowledge-building perspective developed by Scardamalia and Bereiter (2003) to illustrate how teacher education may encourage teachers to become inquirers and knowledge creators in a knowledge-building community. (p. 3)

Discussion (p. 15)

We argue that we need a fundamental shift in epistemology about teaching and learning; we need to design courses that model the goals and processes of new conceptions of learning. (p. 15)

Knowledge Building and Teacher Learning (p. 15)

Unfortunately, current teacher education programs often focus on maintaining status quo (Elliott & Morris, 2001) and reproducing current practice (Luke et al., 2000) rather than developing innovative ways to prepare teachers for the complexity of changes. (p. 15)

In designing teacher education courses for pre-service and in-service teachers using a knowledge-building epistemology, the courses went beyond helping participants understand certain theories and application or skills; they placed teachers directly at the sites of discourse to develop their competence in (p. 15)

inquiry, reflection, collaboration, in moving towards knowledge creation. Focus was placed on helping teachers work in communities engaging in progressive discourse inquiring and generating new possibilities. (p. 16)

Teacher education often espouses new ideas about how teaching and learning should work, but in practice it is often compartmentalized. Knowledge building focuses on student agency in raising authentic problems and engaging in progressive discourse. As such, pre-service and in-service teachers ask questions that are important to them, and such questions would necessarily be much more likely to go beyond the confines of a specific subject or a curriculum area. In fact, new teacher education should help teachers to go beyond the confines of their settings, moving from classrooms to the broader local and international communities. (p. 16)

Our study provided an example of how teacher education can provide opportunities for teachers located in different parts of the world to work collaboratively as a knowledge-building community. (p. 16)

Knowledge building is more than another set of pedagogical practices; it focuses on teachers reexamining their own beliefs and epistemologies. Going beyond “knowledge acquisition” and “participation” (Sfard, 1998), knowledge building focuses on progressive inquiry and knowledge generation. (p. 16)

We need to continue to pursue questions about how teachers and teacher educators can engage in moving beyond their best practice personally and collectively. (p. 16)

Knowledge Building and Pedagogical Principles (p. 16)

Based on what we have learned, we proposed a framework with several design principles for computersupported knowledge building in teacher education. (p. 16)

First, teachers need to focus on problems as starting points for their learning. (p. 17)

We encouraged teachers to identify problems relating to authentic contexts. (p. 17)

The use of problems and questions as the starting points in our knowledgebuilding approach helps the teacher participants to uncover discrepancies and to deal with the complexity of changes. (p. 17)

Second, teachers need to engage in inquiry and dialogue with others. (p. 17)

In designing for teacher learning, teacher participants need to engage in dialogue and discourse; they need to view ideas and practice as something that can be examined, debated, and improved as a developing process. (p. 17)

Third, teachers do not learn individually; they learn collaboratively as a community. (p. 17)

Building a sense of community with shared goals, we can affirm, plays an important role in teacher learning. (p. 17)

Fourth, teachers need to have agency in assessing their own and collaborative learning. (p. 17)

We emphasized that assessment, learning, and collaboration need to be integrated in teacher education courses. (p. 17)

Pre-service and inservice teachers need to be engaged constantly in selfand peer-assessments. (p. 17)

We learned from the teachers’ portfolios that they could not isolate their own best work; they described their good notes in relation to what others had contributed to the discussion. Together with the instructors, the teacher participants were co-learners and co-designers and we built a new understanding about the electronic portfolios, making it a more sophisticated assessment tool. (p. 18)

Knowledge Building and Socio-cultural Contexts (p. 18)

How does the knowledge-building approach work for Hong Kong teachers, taking into consideration cultural and contextual constraints? (p. 18)

While teacher collaboration in lesson studies is common in Japan, the concept of teacher learning communities is just emerging in Hong Kong. (p. 18)

The emphasis on contributing to others in the community is consistent with traditional Chinese ways of thinking. Research on the Chinese Learner has shown interesting findings indicating that collaborative learning does take place informally among Chinese students, even though much less so formally in a classroom setting (Tang, 1996). (p. 18)

The Education Reforms in Hong Kong now provide opportunities for new forms of teacher and student learning, but many complexities and problems exist with implementation of policies, changing epistemologies, and constraints in school systems. (p. 18)

Many questions need to be explored about how knowledge building can work in local contexts. Changing pedagogy must be examined in relation to the broader learning contexts with different norms and practices. (p. 19)

For example, teachers can tackle the problem of how the traditional emphasis on examinations and the current Education Reform goals can possibly coexist in Hong Kong schools. Together, we can strive to create the kinds of new knowledge and practice that are valued in the local educational contexts. (p. 19)

Teachers find it difficult to implement new forms of teaching in Hong Kong schools even when they are supported in the context of educational reforms. Policy statements and classroom practice are often quite apart. (p. 19)

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Bodong Chen, University of Minnesota

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