TABLE 6.1 Cognitive Activity and Structure of Knowledge


Structure of Knowledge


Organized Cognitive Activity



Problem Representation

Surface features and shallow understanding

Underlying principles and relevant concepts

Strategy Use

Undirected trial-and-error problem solving

Efficient, informative, and goal oriented


Minimal and sporadic

Ongoing and flexible


Single statement of fact of description of superficial factors

Principled and coherent

nity, the school as a community, and the degree to which students, teachers, and administers feel connected to the larger community of homes, businesses, states, the nation, and even the world.

Classroom and School Communities

At the level of classrooms and schools, learning seems to be enhanced by social norms that value the search for understanding and allow students (and teachers) the freedom to make mistakes in order to learn (e.g., Brown and Campione, 1994; Cobb et al., 1992). Different classrooms and schools reflect different sets of norms and expectations. For example, an unwritten norm that operates in some classrooms is never to get caught making a mistake or not knowing an answer (see, e.g., Holt, 1964). This norm can hinder students’ willingness to ask questions when they do not understand the material or to explore new questions and hypotheses. Some norms and expectations are more subject specific. For example, the norms in a mathematics class may be that mathematics is knowing how to compute answers; a much better norm would be that the goal of inquiry is mathematical understanding. Different norms and practices have major effects on what is taught and how it is assessed (e.g., Cobb et al., 1992). Sometimes there are different sets of expectations for different students. Teachers may convey expectations for school success to some students and expectations for school failure to others (MacCorquodale, 1988). For example, girls are sometimes discouraged from participating in higher level mathematics and science. Students, too, may share and convey cultural expectations that proscribe the participation of girls in some classes (Schofield et al., 1990).

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