The word epistemology was difficult to retain in my brain despite many education fora that I have attended where eminent Educators talked about it. On hindsight, I think this has to do with my personal belief that knowledge is universal – meaning available to anyone, the main difference among individuals is the judgment on what knowledge is the truth. And to me the inconvenient truth is that we all live in different worlds – with different paradigms. And paradigms (beliefs) can change depending on maturation, context and genetics. So, I asked myself, why is epistemology – or theory of knowledge important? And the answer is because knowing is a fundamental demand of human being. I believe that human beings were created with a quest for knowledge as we keep asking the question – why things happen, what is the purpose of life?
A growing body of work provide evidence that personal epistemology is an important component of student learning (Tutty and White 2005) and teacher’s approach to effective teaching. I would like to use the 5 dimensions in the Epistemic Belief Inventory (EBI) used in a study (Tutty and White 2005), to reflect on my personal epistemology.
1. Omniscent Authority – I do not question an authority. For me this is relative, so long as the actions are according to my personal principles that I believe in – like there is sovereign creator, that man is morally accountable for own deeds. The implication of this to my teaching approach is to respect education authorities and implement rules accordingly. This means I will never subscribe to practices such as teaching to the test – just for the sake of being promoted.
2. Certain knowledge – the moral rules that I live by apply to everyone. I have no control over the lives of others as moral values are relative to what one believes as a standard. So, the certainty applies only to my moral personality. The impact of this belief to my teaching career is to be certain on where I stand with regards to moral issues in the education sector – like illegal collection of fees, plagiarism and dishonesty on one’s qualifications.
- Quick learning – working on a problem with no quick solution is a waste of time. I believe that for certain concepts, knowledge is absolute and that truth can be transmitted (dualistic epistemological belief). This means that I cannot cheat my students, I will have to master the content of the subject to teach, otherwise I am wasting the time of my students, as they will learn nothing. On the otherhand, real learning is not focused on the quick solution but helping the students construct the knowledge through series of activities.
- Simple knowledge – instruction should focus on facts instead of theories. While I believe that facts are important, however, understanding the underlying theories and principles provide a deeper understanding of more complex knowledge and helps students to become rational decision makers. So, as a teacher, I need to keep a balance on teaching the facts and helping students construct knowledge on more complex theories.
- Innate ability – how well you do in school depends on how smart you are. I don’t believe that ability is fixed. I agree on the view that knowledge comprise of absolute truth and personal opinion, making me a multiplistic believer (respecting many points of views). My role as a teacher is to provide equal opportunities for my students to the basics and guide them towards higher order thinking skills. In a sense I take a relativistic view – believing that students can be creative and innovative.
This is my repertoire of epistemological beliefs.
- Tutty, Joddi and White, Barbara, 2005. “Epistemological Beliefs and Learners in a Tablet Classroom.” Charles Darwin University.
- Brownlee, Joanne, 2003. “Paradigm Shifts in Pre-Service Teacher Education Students: Case Studies of Changes in Epistemological Beliefs.” Queensland University of Technology.