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The importance of epistemic cognition in student-centred learning

Maclellan, Effie and Soden, R. (2004) The importance of epistemic cognition in student-centred learning. Instructional Science, 32 (3). pp. 253-268. ISSN 0020-4277

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To infer the sophistication of epistemic thinking in a sample of undergraduate students, 25 participants completed a free-response task in which they were asked to give reasons for their agreement or disagreement with a small number of beliefs about the role of tutorials and of tutors in gaining knowledge. Responses were analysed according to King & Kitchener's (1994) stages of reasoning, revealing that the justifications offered were either at the stages of pre-reflective or quasi-reflective thinking with none exhibiting reflective thinking. The findings have two main pedagogical implications: first that good teaching be understood not as a set of performance skills which may only be opportunistically related to students' extant conceptualisations but as the locus through which students confront their own epistemic beliefs. A second implication is that to extend students' reasoning, teaching practices must focus explicitly on the difficult issue of what counts as evidence