14 SES 01 A, Aspects of Place-based Education I
Parallel Paper Session
Children’s personal epistemologies would seem to have fundamental implications for their learning and engagement with school, and have been shown to be associated with academic success in older pupils (Schommer-Aikins et al., 2005; Cano 2005). Although relevant research is common in the US and continental Europe, (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Bendixen & Feucht, 2009), it rarely includes primary school children (ages 5 – 11) and the research topic itself is neglected in the UK. Professionally it is also rare in England for primary school teachers, working in the contemporary climate of prescription and performativity, to feel that they have the freedom to encourage children to share their beliefs about knowledge. Thus, many children’s home and community ‘funds of knowledge’ remain undiscovered, with two potential consequences: (i) children may feel excluded from, and become disillusioned with, classroom discourse (Moll et al., 1992), and (ii) teachers have little opportunity to address children’s beliefs about the contestability, stability and acquisition of knowledge. Our research on the nature and implications of children’s personal epistemologies is intended ultimately to contribute to the development of more inclusive educational practice in English primary schools.
Our investigation of children’s epistemic beliefs has become a theoretical journey drawing progressively on certain interdisciplinary and potentially complementary theoretical perspectives. Initially psychological in focus and socio-constructivist in approach, we then found that Bronfenbrenner’s bio-ecological systems theory of human development provided a valuable framework for our exploration of children’s personal epistemologies in home, school and wider contexts (see also Feucht, 2009). Our dialogic methodology, involving the construction of meaning in conversation between children, was inspired by Vygotsky’s work and the recent educational interpretations that have been extensively investigated in primary classrooms (e.g. Alexander, 2010; Mercer, 2000). We now find further thought-provoking connections to the philosophical, political and practical ideas associated with Freire. Finally, bridging the ecological systems and socio-cultural perspectives, consideration of the role and potential salience of ‘place’ in children’s epistemic beliefs has led us to consider the relevance of theoretical formulations of place-consciousness and place-identity. This is work in progress.
Our principal research question is whether place, defined narrowly or more broadly, has a role in children’s personal epistemologies, and if so, in what ways is this role expressed.
Alexander, R.J. ( 2010) Children, their world, their education: Final report of the Cambridge Primary Review. London: Routledge Bendixen, L. & Feucht, F. ( Eds)( 2009) Personal epistemology in the classroom. Theory, research and implications for practice . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cano, F. Epistemological beliefs and approaches to learning: Their change through secondary school and their influence on academic performance. British Journal of Educational Psychology. 75, 203-21 Feucht, F. (2009) ‘Epistemic climate in the elementary classroom’. In Bendixen & Feucht, 2009 (Eds.) above. Hofer, B, and Pintrich, P. (Eds.) (2002) Personal epistemology The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. New York: Routledge Mercer, N. (2000). Words and Minds. How we use language to think together. London: Routledge. Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D. & Gonzalez, N. (1992) Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into practice, 31(2), 132-141. Schommer-Aikins, M., Duell, O. & Hutter, R. (2005) Epistemological beliefs, mathematical problem solving and academic performance of middle school pupils. The Elementary School Journal, 105(3), 289-304.
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