Rise Above: What does it mean to be in a knowledge building community?

One of the 12 principle’s of knowledge building is that knowledge rests within communities of learners. Once ideas happen, others can take, shape and build upon them; however, the intent is always that the entire community experiences knowledge growth.  This is so very different from our current education model where ideas and knowledge rest within individuals.   This is a concept I’ve been grappling with.  What does community knowledge mean?
What would I see?  What would emerge from student work? How would I know that the community rather than individual students own the knowledge?

Through our inquiry into assessment I think I’ve stumbled upon a model and a process that leads to community improvement of ideas.  What I am observing and writing about will, I hope, mark an enormous leap forward – one that takes us beyond collaboration and idea diversity into new territory.

Most of my class is away on a winter camping trip this week so I have only a small group to work with.  Today I introduced them to my idea and when the rest of the class returns we will attempt to deepen understanding.  It might be useful for readers to visit the assessment post to understand the trajectory of learning.

I returned to our starting point – the Ontario Achievement Chart – that had launched our inquiry into assessment.

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I pointed out to the class that this chart was only my idea.  I had taken the Ontario Achievement Chart and put it into kid friendly language.

Over the course of the week as we inquired into  what it means to write thorough responses to  open-ended questions, we created lists of success criteria.  We shared work. We examined writing samples and engaged in a feedback process.  I interviewed every child in both classes about their insights and understandings, developing a discourse around writing and assessment.  Based on what they were noticing and from our discussions, students created rubrics. One student even constructed a causal model of a mark.  Several students included ideas that hadn’t occurred to me.  As I listened I made note.  I was harvesting the good ideas.  It was only yesterday that I realized that what I had extracted were the “Rise Aboves” – another principle of knowledge building.  Rise above thinking means that from all the ideas that emerge in collaborative inquiry, we select the most significant ones for deeper examination.  What I was doing was modeling “Rise Above”.

From these I created a new achievement chart – one that now reflects the knowledge of the community.  I used a fishing analogy to help students understand what I had done.  Keep the big fish. Toss the small ones back.  Analogy as a tool for explaining ideas is a strategy used by several students.  They understand that analogies are useful for explaining complex ideas.

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I then presented  the new chart that included the many ideas that had emerged over the week.  The Achievement Chart now represents the class’s thinking.  This chart could not exist without the class.  Together we have built a better idea.

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I don’t think all students fully understood the significance of this moment, however, as an educator – I get it.  My job now is to create experiences where students have many opportunities to examine everyone’s ideas.  They should be able to independently identify “Rise Above” thinking.  They should be able to extract the useful ideas and collectively build a better one.

What I now have is a facilitation process.  I know how to facilitate the class so that they can arrive at Rise Above thinking.

Please note: this is not the end. My students understand that all ideas are improvable. This chart represents our current best idea.

Monica Resendes, researcher,  noted that this post all represents promising ideas.

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