14 SES 13, Dialogue and Social Transformation, Part II: Methodological Issues, Session It I
Symposium, Part 2
In this paper we evaluate the use of a dialogic approach to accessing children’s ‘personal epistemologies’, i.e. their beliefs about knowledge and knowing, in and out of school. Research on personal epistemologies has grown in the US and continental Europe typically involving adults and adolescents, using individually focused questionnaire or interview methods (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Our interest is in children’s personal epistemologies, and, following Bendixen and Feucht (2009), we argue for a clearly age-appropriate, constructivist approach. Our dialogic method invites participants to discuss the topic between themselves, with occasional contributions from the researcher, rather than following the typical question-answer interview format. In keeping with sociocultural theory, we suggest that the dialogue, if successfully evoked and sustained, uncovers richer data on children’s personal epistemologies than is possible in individual or traditional interviews as participants share and defend their ideas. We consider examples from two studies investigating primary school children’s views about knowledge involving (i) open-ended dialogic interviews with small groups of children in one school and (ii) a combination of approaches in several primary schools (Kershner & Hargreaves, in press). We discuss arguments for and against this approach, and consider its value for researchers and teachers.
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