Academic journal article International Education Studies

An International Knowledge Building Network for Sustainable Curriculum and Pedagogical Innovation

Academic journal article International Education Studies

An International Knowledge Building Network for Sustainable Curriculum and Pedagogical Innovation

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper presents the results of the first phase (2007-2009) of a design experiment, the Knowledge Building International Project (KBIP), in which K-12 teachers from several countries collaborate as a loosely coupled network of networks with a common goal-to implement technology-supported knowledge building jointly across their classrooms. There was a visible increase in agency at all levels of the network: students, teachers and school senior management, resulting in deepening levels of pedagogical innovation over time, as well as changes in governance in response to the innovation as a result of self-organization. These are emergent features characteristic of complex systems that cannot be explained by a traditional model of change as diffusion. This study adopts Banathy's dimensions for systemic educational design to identify the key features of the sociotechnical design that nurture and sustain the innovations upon which these teachers embarked within and beyond their own schools.

Keywords: Collaborative innovation, Collaborative learning, Ecological model of educational change, Sustainability, Networked classrooms

1. Introduction

Many policy makers believe that innovation is essential in a knowledge society. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) positioned innovation and knowledge creation as strategically important for business organizations and in the workplace. In education, innovators put forward 21st century skills as keenly important learning outcomes for school graduates. Scardamalia, Bransford, Kozma, and Quellmalz (2010) emphasize a developmental scheme that ranges from entry-level competence to competences characteristic of innovative groups in knowledge-creating organizations.

The notion of the classroom-as-a-knowledge-creation-organization is the underlying assumption here. Bereiter and Scardamalia (2003) have stressed knowledge building as an alternative concept to learning in the classroom. This paper presents the results of the first phase (2007-2009) of a design experiment inspired by their research advances, the Knowledge Building International Project (KBIP). Participating K-12 teachers from several countries co-designed the socio-technological environment for computer-supported knowledge building. The innovative pedagogical approach embodied in this project exemplifies how to enhance the learning environment in ways that would not be possible without the technology. The focus of this paper, however, is not on KBIP per se, but on understanding the key environmental characteristics and design features of the KBIP project that nurture and sustain the innovations upon which these teachers have embarked within and beyond their own schools.

Current models of educational change are often designed as "initiatives" to be piloted, refined and then scaled up through a process of diffusion. The KBIP project challenges this view, as it is an attempt to develop an ecological model of change that create conditions for productive interaction and collaboration across institutions and across countries. KBIP also supports self-organization by giving agency to teachers and schools to determine the pedagogical design for their own implementation of new practices. Such a model of change brings a much wider diversity of practices than many curriculum innovation initiatives that focus around specific pedagogical designs, resulting in an ecology of practices.

This study investigates whether there is evidence that such an ecological model of change creates conditions that are more conducive to sustainability than change instituted as "initiatives", and also describes the "ecological role" of an international network in the change process. In the first phase, we focus on the agency demonstrated by different participants as they developed socio-technical designs for engaging students in collaborative inquiry and knowledge building on climate change and sustainability related themes. In particular, we examine if there is evidence of the use of agency due to interactions between different participants in the network and whether the agency brings about co-evolution in rules and practices at school and system levels that are conducive to sustainability and institutionalization of change. …

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