Scaffolding Progressive Online Discourse for Literary Knowledge Building


  • Marc Nachowitz Miami University



online discussion, knowledge building, literacy, secondary English education


Drawing on research from online, knowledge-building, and discussion-based learning, this design-based experiment captures the instructional moves theorized to develop student capacity in progressive, literary discourse. The experiment employed Knowledge Forum and its unique capacity to scaffold student learning of progressive discourse that results in an explanatory model, theory, or literary interpretation. Analysis of student discussion posts within and between two iterative phases suggest that explicit instruction in progressive discourse, combined with regular classroom debriefings of online discussion, contributed to student mastery. Additionally, the use of sentence starters aligned with each Knowledge Forum scaffold for progressive discourse provided positive outcomes. Implications for using online, progressive, literary discourse scaffolds to inculcate disciplinary thinking and discussion appropriate to the secondary English/Language Arts class are discussed.

Author Biography

Marc Nachowitz, Miami University

Assistant Professor of Literacy/Language Arts

Department of Teacher Education


Adler, M., & Rougle, E. (2005). Building literacy through classroom discussion: Research-based strategies for developing critical readers and thoughtful writers in middle school New York: Scholastic.

Applebee, A. N., Langer, J. A., Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (2003). Discussion-based approaches to developing understanding: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school english. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 685-730. doi:

Barab, S. (2006). Design-based research: A methodological toolkit for the learning scientist. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 153-169). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Bereiter, C. (2002). Knowledge and mind in the knowledge age. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (2003). Learning to work creatively with knowledge. In E. De Corte, L. Verschaffel, N. Entwistle & J. van Merrienboer (Eds.), Powerful learning environments: Unraveling basic components and dimensions (pp. 55-68). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science.

Bielaczyc, K., & Collins, A. (2006). Technology as a catalyst for fostering knowledge-creating communities. In A. M. O'Donnell, C. E. Hmelo-Silver & G. Erkens (Eds.), Collaborative learning, reasoning, and technology (pp. 37-60). Mahwah, NJ Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Botha, J., van der Westhuizen, D., & De Swardt, E. (2005). Towards appropriate methodologies to research interactive learning: Using a design experiment to assess a learning programme for complex thinking. (Undetermined). International Journal of Education & Development using Information & Communication Technology, 1(2), 105-117.

Chen, B., deNoyelles, A., Patton, K., & Zydney, J. (2017). Creating a community of inquiry in large-enrollment online courses: An exploratory study on the effect of protocols within online discussions. Online Learning, 21(1), 165-188. doi:

Chen, D. T., & Hung, D. (2002). Personalised knowledge representations: the missing half of online discussions. British Journal of Educational Technology, 33(3), 279.

Collins, A., Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design Research: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15-42.

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). English Language Arts Standards; Reading: Literature; Grades 9-12.

Draper, S. (2010). Out of my mind. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Gao, F. (2014). Exploring the use of discussion strategies and labels in asynchronous online discussion. Online Learning, 18(3). doi: 10.24059/olj.v18i3.460

Goldman, S. R., Britt, M. A., Brown, W., Cribb, G., George, M., Greenleaf, C., . . . Project, R. (2016). Disciplinary literacies and learning to read for understanding: A conceptual framework for disciplinary literacy. Educational Psychologist, 51(2), 219-246. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2016.1168741

Goldman, S. R., & Scardamalia, M. (2013). Managing, Understanding, Applying, and Creating Knowledge in the Information Age: Next-Generation Challenges and Opportunities. Cognition and Instruction, 31(2), 255-269. doi: 10.1080/10824669.2013.773217

Gravemeijer, K., & Cobb, P. (2006). Design research from a learning design perspective. In J. van den Akker, K. Gravemeijer, S. McKenney & N. Nieween (Eds.), Educational design research (pp. 17-51). New York: Routledge.

Hara, N., Bonk, C. J., & Angeli, C. (2000). Content analysis of online discussion in an applied educational psychology course. Instructional Science, 28(2), 115-152.

Jonassen, D. H., & Kim, B. (2010). Arguing to learn and learning to argue: design justifications and guidelines. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(4), 439-457.

Juzwik, M. M., Nystrand, M., Kelly, S., & Sherry, M. B. (2008). Oral Narrative Genres as Dialogic Resources for Classroom Literature Study: A Contextualized Case Study of Conversational Narrative Discussion. American Educational Research Journal, 45(4), 1111-1154. doi: 10.3102/0002831208321444

Kuhn, D., Zillmer, N., Crowell, A., & Zavala, J. (2013). Developing Norms of Argumentation: Metacognitive, Epistemological, and Social Dimensions of Developing Argumentive Competence. Cognition and Instruction, 31(4), 456-496. doi: 10.1080/07370008.2013.830618

Lamon, M. (2005). Information and communications technology and literacy development. Paper presented at the Proceedings of CSCL 2005: The Fifth International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning, Taipei, Taiwan.

Lamon, M., Chan, C., Scardamalia, M., Burtis, P. J., & Brett, C. (1993). Beliefs about learning and constructive processes in reading: Effects of a computer supported intentional learning environment (CSILE). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta, GA.

Langer, J., & Applebee, A. (2016). English research from 1984 to 2015: A then, newer, and now look through the eyes of our RTE editorship. Research in the Teaching of English, 50(3), 333-343.

Langer, J. A. (1995). Envisioning Literature: Literary Understanding and Literature Instruction. New York: Teachers College Press.

Langer, J. A. (2011). Envisioning knowledge: Building literacy in the academic disciplines. New York: Teachers College Press.

Lee, C., Goldman, S. R., Levine, S., & Magliano, J. (2016). Epistemic cognition in literary reasoning. In W. Sandoval, I. Braten & J. Green (Eds.), The Handbook of Epistemic Cognition (pp. 165-183). New York: Routledge.

Lee, C. D. (2007). Culture, literacy, and learning; Taking bloom in the midst of the whirlwind. New York: Teachers College Press.

Luke, A. (2001). Forward. In E. B. Moje & D. O'Brien (Eds.), Constructions of literacy: Studies of teaching and learning in and out of secondary classrooms (pp. ix-xii). NJ: Erlbaum.

Messina, R., & Reeve, R. (2006). Knowledge building in elementary science. In K. Leithwood, P. McAdie, N. Bascia & A. Rodrigue (Eds.), Teaching for deep understanding: What eveyr educator should know (pp. 110-115). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Miall, D. S., & Kuiken, D. (1999). What is literariness? Three components of literary reading. Discourse Processes, 28(2), 121-138. doi: 10.1080/01638539909545076

Moje, E. B. (2008). Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A call for change. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(2), 96-107. doi: 10.2307/20111747

Moje, E. B., Young, J. P., Readence, J. E., & Moore, D. W. (2000). Reinventing adolescent literacy for new times: Perennial and millennial issues. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 43(5), 400-410.

Morris, R., Hadwin, A. F., Gress, C. L. Z., Miller, M., Fior, M., Church, H., & Winne, P. H. (2010). Designing roles, scripts, and prompts to support CSCL in gStudy. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(5), 815-824. doi: 10.1016/J.CHB.2008.12.001

Moss, J., & Beatty, R. (2006). Knowledge building in mathematics: Supporting collaborative learning in pattern problems. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 1(December), 441-465. doi: 10.1007/s11412-006-9003-z

Murphy, P. K., Wilkinson, I. A. G., Soter, A. O., Hennessey, M. N., & Alexander, J. F. (2009). Examining the Effects of Classroom Discussion on Students' Comprehension of Text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(3), 740-764. doi: 10.1037/a0015576

Ng, C. S. L., Cheung, W. S., & Hew, K. F. (2010). Solving ill-structured problems in asynchronous online discussions: built-in scaffolds vs. no scaffolds. Interactive Learning Environments, 18(2), 115-134. doi: 10.1080/10494820802337629

Niu, H., & Aalst, J. v. (2009). Participation in knowledge-building discourse: An analysis of online discussions in mainstream and honours Social Studies courses. Canadian Journal of Learning & Technology, 35(1), 7-7.

Noroozi, O., Weinberger, A., Biemans, H. J. A., Mulder, M., & Chizari, M. (2013). Facilitating argumentative knowledge construction through a transactive discussion script in CSC. Computers & Education, 61, 59-76. doi: 10.1016/J.COMPEDU.2012.08.013

Nussbaum, E. M., Hartley, K., Sinatra, G. M., Reynolds, R. E., & Bendixen, L. D. (2004). Personality interactions and scaffolding in on-line discussions. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 30(1/2), 113-137.

Nystrand, M. (2006). Research on the role of classroom discourse as it affects reading comprehension. Research in the Teaching of English, 40(4), 392-412.

Nystrand, M., Gamoran, A., Kachur, R., & Prendergast, C. (1997). Opening Dialogue: Understanding the Dynamics of Language and Learning in the English Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Nystrand, M., Wu, L. L., Gamoran, A., Zeiser, S., & Long, D. A. (2003). Questions in Time: Investigating the Structure and Dynamics of Unfolding Classroom Discourse. Discourse Processes, 35(2), 135-198.

O'Brien, D., Moje, E. B., & Stewart, M. A. (2001). Exploring the context of secondary literacy; Literacy in people's everyday school lives. In E. B. Moje & D. O'Brien (Eds.), Constructions of literacy: Studies of teaching and learning in and out of secondary classrooms (pp. 27-48). NJ: Erlbaum.

Palinscar, A., & Ladewski, B. G. (2006). Literacy and the learning sciences. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 299-314). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Parker, W. C., Lo, J., Yeo, A. J., Valencia, S. W., Nguyen, D., Abbott, R. D., . . . Vye, N. J. (2013). Beyond breadth-speed test: Toward deeper knowing and engagement in an advanced placement course. American Educational Research Journal, 50(6), 1424-1459.

Rea, L. M., & Parker, R. A. (1992). Designing and conducting survey research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Reinking, D., & Bradley, B. A. (2004). Connecting research and practice using formative and design experiments. In M. K. Duke & M. H. Mallette (Eds.), Literacy research methodologies (pp. 149-169). New York: The Guilford Press.

Reinking, D., & Bradley, B. A. (2008). On formative and design experiments: Approaches to language and literacy research (an NCRLL volume). New York: Teachers College Press.

Reinking, D., & Watkins, J. (2000). A formative experiment investigating the use of multimedia book reviews to increase elementary students' independent reading. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(3), 384.

Rourke, L., & Kanuka, H. (2009). Learning in communities of inquiry: A review of the literature. Journal of Distance Education, 23(1), 19-48.

Scardamalia, M. (2002). Collective cognitive responsibility for the advancement of knowledge. In B. Smith (Ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society (pp. 67-98). Chicago, IL: Open Court.

Scardamalia, M. (2003). Crossing the digital divide: Literacy as by-product of knowledge building. Journal of Distance Education, 17(Suppl. 3), 78-81.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (1991). Higher levels of agency for children in knowledge building: A challenge for the design of new knowledge media. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1(1), 37-68.

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 97-115). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Scardamalia, M., Bereiter, C., Burtis, P. J., Calhoun, C., & Smith Lea, N. (1992). Educational applications of a networked communal database. Interactive Learning Environments, 2(1), 45-71.

Spiro, R. J., Coulson, R. L., Feitovich, P. J., & Anderson, D. K. (1994). Cognitive Flexibility Theory: Advanced Knowledge Acquisition in Ill-Structured Domains. In R. B. Rudell, M. R. Rudell & H. Singer (Eds.), Theoretical Models and Processes of Reading (Fourth ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Sun, Y., Zhang, J., & Scardamalia, M. (2010). Knowledge building and vocabulary growth over two years, Grades 3 and 4. Instructional Science, 38(2), 147-171. doi: 10.1007/s11251-008-9082-5

Wineberg, S. S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and the academy. American Educational Research Journal, 28(3), 495-519. doi:

Zhang, J., Scardamalia, M., Lamon, M., Messina, R., & Reeve, R. (2007). Socio-cognitive dynamics of knowledge building in the work of 9- and 10-year-olds. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(2), 117-145.

Zhang, J., & Sun, Y. (2011). Reading for idea advancement in a grade 4 knowledge building community. Instructional Science, 39(4), 429-452.






Section II