Students’ Epistemological Development in GE Foundation Learning (2015-)

Principal Supervisor(s): Dr. LIAO Liang, Baldwin Cheng Research Centre for General Education

Initiated in 2015, this qualitative research aimed to explore students’ epistemological development through the reading of classic texts of the two foundation courses. The research used W.G. Perry’s intellectual and ethical development theory to analyze students’ epistemology, including their understandings of knowledge reflected in foundation courses and justifications of their viewpoints emerged in evaluating knowledge as well as their personal reflections in classic works. The data collection spanned over three academic terms from 2015 to 2016, with a total of 25 students interviewed for 5 times each.

The first stage of data analysis targeted on students enrolled in In Dialogue with Nature. In collaboration with the respective class teachers, the researcher analyzed the interview contents of 8 students. It was found that students’ epistemology was very complex and did not follow a linear development track as the usual assumption. All 8 students showed hybrid epistemological approaches when they interpreted the concepts and ideas of different texts.  The same student might demonstrate higher level of epistemology when interpreting one text, but handled another text with incomplete or undeveloped epistemology.  The hybrid feature of student’s epistemology in understanding different classic works shed light on the design of teaching and assessment. For example, more teaching scaffolds may be needed for low epistemological level texts. As for assessment tasks especially for summative assessment, how to design a comprehensive writing theme which could involve as many topics of the texts as possible to counteract the unbalancing epistemology in different classic works needs to be considered. The second stage of data analysis targeted on In Dialogue with Humanity is ongoing.