How can knowledge building communities be developed in New Zealand secondary schools?

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Mallinson, Philippa Lorraine
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Applied Practice
Unitec Institute of Technology
Reinders, Hayo
Mane, Jo
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand
secondary schools
knowledge building community (KBC)
collaborative learning
inquiry based learning
teaching as inquiry
secondary students
secondary teachers
Mallinson, P. L. (2019) How can knowledge building communities be developed in New Zealand secondary schools? (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Applied Practice). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
RESEARCH QUESTIONS: 1. What are the pedagogical factors that make it difficult for NZ secondary school teachers to develop KB pedagogy within their classes? 2. What social factors are involved in developing KBC in a NZ secondary school classroom? 3. Which actions from teachers contribute positively to the development of a KBC in NZ secondary school classrooms? ABSTRACT: It is widely argued in education literature that pedagogy needs to change in order to meet the demands of life in the 21st century, and to adequately prepare our ākonga for life in a knowledge society (Gilbert, 2007). Knowledge Building Communities (KBC) are acknowledged as a pedagogical approach that is well suited for preparing learners to be connected, critical thinkers (Bolstad et al., 2012). This study examines several secondary school teachers’ experiences of developing KBC, contextual changes, actions taken to address these challenges, and their views around what would support further development of knowledge building (KB) in their classes. This research aims to understand the imperatives behind KB, to evaluate the challenges involved in developing KB in New Zealand (NZ), and to make recommendations for strengthening the development of KBC in NZ secondary classrooms. In this practitioner research, I conducted seven interviews with secondary school teachers from a range of locations, and, subsequently, held one focus group interview with five of the teachers from the initial interviews. These methods were used to draw upon teachers’ personal experiences of developing a KBC, their perceptions of what supported the development of KB, identifying what made KB particularly challenging in a NZ context and their views on what would support the development of KB in the future. Key findings included the necessity of professional support, the importance of developing a learning environment that is conducive to KB, the need to reframe the foci of student assessment and how it is conducted, and the importance of developing communities at both a teacher and student level. As change is a fundamental feature of developing KBC in NZ schools, several challenges and complexities were highlighted through teachers’ opinions and experiences of developing KBC, and their views about what would support the development of KBC. This research has implications for schools and teachers. Schools should make efforts to minimise unnecessary external pressures. Furthermore, teachers will need to make significant shifts in their practice to develop KBC and professional support is essential for facilitating the shift to KB pedagogy. Where this is not available within their own school, teachers will need to seek out like-minded practitioners to work together as a KBC. The recommendations of this study are that the challenges in developing KBC could be mitigated by: accessing professional learning communities focused on developing KB pedagogy, the development of a local repository of practices conducive to KB, and alignment with local and national pedagogical initiatives to leverage the development of KBC.
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