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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Building a Community of Learners on Individual Differences: A Social Constructivist Approach

Loretta M. W. Ho, Dr Thomas K. W. Tang, Carol K. K. Chan.

Many educators consider individual differences among pupils as a classroom problem and some try to reduce the problem by streaming. This paper presents an alternative approach, based on social constructivism, in which individual differences are taken as an important resource in enhancing learning in the classroom. The paper is based on a naturalistic study with two primary schools implementing many learning strategies with a social constructivist root. These include collaborative learning, peer scaffolding and portfolio assessment. The strategies were gradually introduced in the two schools through encouragement and support of the research team. The lessons using the new strategies were videotaped and the pupils' works were collected for analysis. To supplement, standardized tests developed independently were used to triangulate the qualitative study. Results show that the introduction of social constructivism has a significant impact on classroom practices, on interactions of pupils and on their level of active participation on learning. Qualitative analysis of pupils' work also shows promising results. The observed improvement in learning has further been confirmed by statistical analysis of standardized test results. The findings strongly argue the possibility to handling individual differences without resorting to streaming strategies.


Loretta M. W. Ho  (China)
Research Project Coordinator
Faculty of Education, Faculty of Education
The University of Hong Kong The University of Hong Kong.

HO Man Wah, Loretta, BEd(Hons) (UK), MEd, PhD Candidate (HKU), is a Research Project Coordinator, and a Part-time Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, the University of Hong Kong. She is involved in a 3-year joint-university research project and the teacher training courses on learning psychology, counselling and special education needs. Her areas of research interest include: cognition and instruction, literacy development, student interaction, knowledge building and learning communities.

Dr Thomas K. W. Tang  (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China)
Associate Professor
School of Education and Languages
Open University of Hong Kong

TANG Kwong Wai, Thomas, BSc(Hons), DipEd (London), DipEd (CUHK), MEd, PhD (HKU) is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and Languages, the Open University of Hong Kong. He is involved in teaching courses on developmental psychology and on curriculum. His areas of research interest include: teachers’ thinking and computer-mediated learning communities.

Carol K. K. Chan  (China)
Associate Professor

University of Hong Kong

CHAN Kwai Kuen, Carol, BA(Hons), Cert.Ed., (HKU), M.A., Ph.D (Toronto), is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, the University of Hong Kong. She is involved in teaching courses on educational and instructional psychology, learning and assessment, higher-order thinking, knowledge building. Her areas of research interest include: cognition and instruction, knowledge building, computer-supported collaborative learning, conceptual change, reading processes and learning communities.

  • Social Constructivism,
  • Individual Differences,
  • Collaborative Learning,
  • Peer Scaffolding,
  • Portfolio Assessment,
  • Primary Education
Person as Subject
  • Primary 3 and 4 Students

(30 min Conference Paper, English)