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Sept 29, 2006

E-Coaching Tip 23: "Making Your Students' Knowledge Visible" --Three Questions to Ask Your Students

Getting to know your students' "State of Knowledge" is an ongoing part of the teaching experience. Here are three questions that you may want to use during this week of the term. These questions will also stimulate the students to spend some time integrating their reading experiences into their knowledge base.

Question #1: Developing a questioning mindset

1. After a particular reading or research assignment, ask your students to develop their own question, as if they were interviewing an expert, leader, and other students.

  • "What question do you wish you could ask of this expert, reading, leader or __________?"

Note: Developing a question requires the student to pause, reflect and assimilate knowledge or content. Students can post these questions to the discussion board or to the general course forum. These questions help you to "see" into students' heads and observe how students are putting things together.

Question #2: Identifying Patterns, Relationships, and Linkages

2. Making new knowledge one's own requires linking ideas and new incoming knowledge to existing sections, areas of our physical brain and real knowledge base. In other words, a key process of learning is the linking of ideas and the observation of patterns. It is another way of chunking information and grounding information for the long term. Here are some questions that might elicit this type of knowledge work in your students.

  • "What do the ideas in _____(Chapter, reading, discussion, podcast, etc ____________ remind you of? What relationships are fundamental to these ideas? What patterns, if any, are you observing? Are these patterns or relationships present in other recent events, or work experiences?

Note: These questions help you to "see" into students' heads and observe how students are putting things together, and whether they are creating a useful and accessible body of knowledge.

Question #3: Identifying Insights -- "Watching our Own Minds"

3. Part of being a life-long learner is the awareness of how our minds work, an awareness of when insights happen, that we are aware of the data elements and discrete information pieces are coming together?

  • "What insights or "ah-ha" experiences have you had in the last two weeks? What do you know/understand now that you did not have at your intellectual readiness" just a couple of weeks ago?

Note: These questions help you to "see" into students' heads and observe how students are putting things together, and whether they are creating a useful and accessible body of knowledge.

Background on Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development

If you want to refresh your memory about Vygotsky's zone of proximal development, go to one of the early FAQ questions focusing on getting to know your students.

Here is the question:

  • 5. How can I learn or assess each learner's state of understanding of core concepts, etc? In other words, how do I know what the learners know and are coming to know?

Discussion and answer

Visible Knowledge and Concept Mapping

In preparing this ecoaching tip I wanted to focus on the relatively new trendy idea of "making knowledge visible." I think that is a powerful way of tapping into our own knowledge base -- becoming more aware of what we as scholars know as well as a way of "getting into our students' heads.

A simple approach that has been around a while is called concept-mapping or mind-mapping. Here is the definition available at Wikipedia, -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_mapping

A mind map (or mind-map) is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged radially around a central key word or idea. It is used to generate, visualize, structure and classify ideas, and as an aid in study, organization, problem solving, and decision making.

A mind map is similar to a semantic network or cognitive map but there are no formal restrictions on the kinds of links used.

We are now awash with tools that claim to support mind-mapping and concept-mapping and identifying one or more of these might be a good tip for the future. Let us know if you know of one that works for you!

Knowledge Mapping

While searching for Visible Knowledge work, I also found myself in the middle of literature for Knowledge Management in organizations and how organizations are grappling with the knowledge that is in everyone's heads! I thought the task of coming to know what students know was complex; organizations have more time, but it is an infinitely greater level of complexity.

I did find one article that describes five different types of knowledge maps. These five different types of knowledge maps are:

  • Knowledge sources (Who knows what?)
  • Knowledge asset maps (What types of knowledge assets does a company have?)
  • Knowledge structure maps (Architecture of a knowledge domain)
  • Knowledge application maps (Knowledge linked to processes)
  • Knowledge Development maps (Stages in acquiring competencies for an organization)

While these are designed for corporate use, some of them are also useful for individuals and teams. The resource is by Eppler and the reference is provided below.

More Background and References

Eppler, Martin J. Making Knowledge Visible Through Intranet Knowledge Maps: concepts, Elements, Cases. hicss, p. 4030, Proceedings of the 34th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 2001. (Note: I was able to access this through ACM Digital Library.)

E-Coaching Tip 23: Making Your Students' Knowledge Visible, Three Questions to Ask Your Students



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Revised May 20 2013
Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 1997-2013