Knowledge Building and Its Impact on Motivation

How does knowledge building environment impact lower achievers’ motivation to engage in learning of science?


Motivation is defined as an inner psychological process that provides direction and vigour for one’s behaviour (Reeve, 1996). When relatedness, optimal challenges and autonomy are met, motivation to learn is enhanced. Motivation is key in supporting self-directed learning by enhancing student’s initiation of self-regulated and deep-level learning strategies in the face of challenge. Motivation is especially important for lower achievers who generally have low efficacy in learning. In this blog post, principle-based Knowledge Building (KB) practice in a computer-supported-collaborative-learning environment is adopted in an effort to motivate lower achievers in science lesson. We focus on translating two KB principles, i.e. real ideas, authentic problems and idea diversity (Scardamalia, 2002) in designing the classroom. 

Understanding how learning happens is essential for understanding the kind of learning environment that motivates students to achieve positive learning outcomes. Learning is an active process where learners assimilate information and relate new knowledge to their prior knowledge. It requires learners to actively synthesize information rather than simply memorize and regurgitate it. Learners benefit when exposed to diverse viewpoints from people with varied backgrounds and most importantly, learning flourishes in a social environment. We put together a model of KB Design (Figure below) to explain the components that should be considered in a knowledge building classroom and the dimension of motivations that it would impact. 

Underpinning principles for design: In this case, we adopted two KB principles (real ideas and authentic problems and idea diversity) which translate to characteristics of learning tasks and activities, namely autonomy, optimal challenges and relatedness. For example, in determining the trigger activity, the phenomenon selected is not meant to define the problem to be solved but more so for students to have a chance to exercise their autonomy by working through diverse ideas.

Collaboration has been shown to be beneficial for motivation and learning under numerous circumstances (e.g. Deutsch & Krauss, 1960). At its best, collaborative learning combines the many advantages of individual and social processes, which can contribute to group members’ engagement and motivation, ultimately resulting in better performance (Jones & Isroff, 2005). In low achievers, we look at how each principle of KB chosen can help them in achieving the outcome of motivation through supporting key features of a KB classroom such as autonomy, optimal challenges and relatedness. This increased motivation is due to the students modulating their self-efficacy and orienting their goals towards mastery goals. The increased motivation is evident with reference to the survey results which showed students enjoyed participating in a collaborative effort to construct knowledge online as well as the postings which showed students wanting to find out more and wanting to bridge their learning gaps.

There is a need to consider how to intrinsically motivate the students in developing soft skills like inventive thinking which will pull the learners through in the long run. Advocating for the Knowledge Building is important but it must be done at multi-levels in the future which include policy-makers and school leaders.

It will be good if there are pre and post-test on the inquiry topic in the next action research to be undertaken to elicit and measure the idea improvement and change in motivation level through a Knowledge Building exercise in lower achieving students.