Enabling Students to Construct Theories of Collaborative Inquiry and Reflective Learning: Computer Support for Metacognitive Development
To develop lifelong learning skills, we argue that students need to learn how to learn
via inquiry and understand the sociocognitive and metacognitive processes that are involved.
We illustrate how software could play a central role in enabling students to develop such
expertise. Our hypothesis is that sociocognitive systems, such as those needed for collaborative
inquiry and reflective learning, can best be understood as a community of interacting agents,
who each have expertise in accomplishing particular high-level goals. We introduce a system,
named SCI-WISE, that houses a community of software agents, such as a Planner, a
Collaborator, and an Assessor. The agents give strategic advice and guide students as they
undertake collaborative research projects and as they reflect on and revise their inquiry
processes. Students can easily modify SCI-WISE so that it expresses their own theories of how
to do inquiry and how best to coach and scaffold the process. We describe curricular activities
in which middle school students use SCI-WISE to engage in “inquiry about inquiry,” thereby
making inquiry and metacognition topics of investigation. Finally, we discuss how such
activities should lead to improvements in their inquiry learning skills as well as to their
metacognitive development in general.