Abstract: Highlights • Students' online participation and connectedness increase over time. • Nine reflective strategies are identified in e-portfolio assessment. • Metadiscourse encompasses meta-cognition, meta-theory and meta-conversation. • Metadiscourse is correlated to deep conceptual inquiry and knowledge advances. • Reflective assessment mediated by principles can enhance CSCL design. Abstract This study examined how reflective assessment supported by principles facilitated metadiscourse for knowledge advances mediated by Knowledge Forum® (KF). Participants were 60 tertiary students in two classes engaging in knowledge building and reflecting on their collaborative knowledge building using e-portfolios; one class was a principle-based knowledge-building environment (KBP, n = 30), and the other a regular knowledge-building environment (KBR, n = 30). The KF embedded assessment tools, the Analytical Toolkit and Applet, showed increased KF participation and connectedness during the year. Regression analysis showed that KF participation predicted conceptual understanding for both classes. Analyses of e-portfolios revealed that the students adopted nine reflective strategies in knowledge building, and that reflective metadiscourse strategies involving metacognitive and collective processes were related with deeper conceptual understanding. Analyses of online discourse threads further showed that metadiscourse involving collective processes was associated with higher levels of knowledge advances. Both classes showed improvement and the KBP class outperformed the KBR class on KF participation, metadiscourse processes and conceptual understanding. This study has theoretical implications advancing the idea of metadiscourse, discourse about discourse, for enriching research on knowledge building and computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL). There are also design implications for using principle-based e-portfolios to facilitate collective reflection and metadiscourse to address issues of fragmented online discussion, and for promoting sustained inquiry.
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