Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Investigating Knowledge Integration in Web-Based Thematic Learning Using Concept Mapping Assessment

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Investigating Knowledge Integration in Web-Based Thematic Learning Using Concept Mapping Assessment

Article excerpt

Background and theoretical basis

Web-based thematic learning

How and when learning occurs is a core issue of teaching and learning. In terms of the process of learners' cognitive development, the concepts of assimilation and accommodation proposed by Piaget (1970) can be regarded as the process of internal knowledge integration. Piaget posits that the assimilation is "the integration of external elements into evolving or completed structures", whereas accommodation is "any modification of an assimilatory scheme or structure by the elements it assimilates". Moreover, "assimilation is necessary in that it assures the continuity of structures and the integration of new elements to these structures", while "accommodation is necessary to permit structural change--the transformation of structures as a function of the new elements encountered" (Block, 1982). Although structures or schemata can be changed and adapted, prior formulations are never destroyed or eliminated, and what was previously known remains with some improvement on the quality of knowledge. Such a process leads to learners systematically expanding their knowledge base in both width and depth. This is knowledge integration that refers to the process if adding, distinguishing, organizing, and evaluating accounts of phenomena, situations, and abstractions (Linn, Eylon, & Davis, 2004). Many theorists describe this process although they may emphasize different aspects of it (e.g., Vygotsky, 1962). The knowledge integration view of learning resonates with extensive research and theorizing in the learning sciences (Krajcik, Marx, Blumenfeld, Soloway, & Fishman, 2000).

In addition, the arrangement of teaching materials must correspond to the structures of learners' cognitive development, which facilitate learners to learn effectively and efficiently (Huang & Liaw, 2004). Learners connect ideas as they construct a cohesive knowledge structure in their minds through curriculum taught in an integrated fashion, and when more connections are made between ideas, the complexity of the mind and the amount of learning increase (Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Sunal, Sunal, & Haas, 1996); therefore, those taught using an interdisciplinary or integrated curriculum often exhibit better performance or learning than those taught according to traditional subject compartmentalized programs.

Based on the definition of curriculum integration, the content of learning should be well-organized so as to achieve better learning effects. For example, Jacobs (1989) proposed the utilization of more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic, or experience. Further, Fogarty (1991) indicated three models of curriculum integration including several approaches, one of which is the "webbed" approach where a theme is selected to become a teaching core, and the theme also refers to a topic, concept, problem, or issue providing both focus and an organizing framework that guides the development and implementation of a cohesive, interrelated series of lessons or activities (Lonning & DeFranco, 1997). This type of curriculum integration is commonplace in elementary and secondary school around the world (Drake & Burns, 2004). Under this method, learners grasp relationships, see more the context of the whole curriculum, and learn to make sense of the world using major unifying topics. This teaching method design also corresponds to Gardner's multiple intelligences theory, and thereby provides an opportunity for learners to integrate different domains of knowledge (Gardner, 1999).

Based on the idea of curriculum integration, knowledge integration, and the characteristic features of cognitive learning, we arrive at a schematic view of thematic learning, as shown in Figure 1 (Huang, Liu, Chu, and Cheng, 2007). Externally, it appears in explicit learning activities, while internally it appears in students' implicit thinking mechanisms. …

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