Exploring emotional and cognitive dynamics of Knowledge Building in grades 1 and 2

  • Gaoxia ZhuEmail author
  • Wanli Xing
  • Stacy Costa
  • Marlene Scardamalia
  • Bo Pei


Emotions have a powerful effect on learning but results regarding the nature of the impact are inconsistent and little is known about effects with young students, as participants are usually university students. This study aims to explore the emotional and cognitive dynamics of young students in both online and offline Knowledge Building. Classroom transcripts and online discourse collected for 45 grade 1 and 2 students over seven to 8 weeks were analyzed. Based on the total number of spoken and written words, the participants were classified into high- and low-participation groups. Multimodal learning analytics including speech emotion analysis, sentiment analysis, and idea improvement analysis were used in a mixed method research design incorporating co-occurrence patterns of emotions and idea improvement of students at different participation levels. High-participation students expressed significantly higher frequencies of emotions recorded as neutrality, joy, curiosity, and confidence compared to low-participation students. High-participation students were more likely to elaborate reasons, describe relationships and mechanisms surrounding ideas they explored, and to introduce new ideas and concepts into community resources. Surprise, challenge, and neutrality can be beneficial since students tended to express these emotions when producing explanation-seeking questions, new ideas, explanations, and regulation. Personalized support to students with different participation levels is proposed, to create a more discursively connected community. Future directions include collecting more diverse data to better understand students’ emotions and to provide teachers and students with real-time data to support Knowledge Building as it proceeds.


Idea improvement Multimodal learning analytics Speech emotion analysis Knowledge Building Discourse analysis Learning community Online and offline discourse 



This work is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant (SSHRC #496730). We would like to thank the children, teachers, parents, principal, and vice-principal who made this research possible. We also want to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers who have greatly helped improve this article with their insightful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaoxia Zhu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wanli Xing
    • 2
  • Stacy Costa
    • 1
  • Marlene Scardamalia
    • 1
  • Bo Pei
    • 2
  1. 1.Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Educational Psychology and LeadershipTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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