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Title: Personal epistemology and its influence on teaching and learning in higher education
Author: Clancy, David Michael
Awarding Body: Prifysgol Bangor University
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2013
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Two case studies – Psychology and Sports Health and Exercise Science (SHES), investigated the influence of personal epistemology on teaching and learning in a higher education context. The investigation used the concept of a socialised habitus of academic personal epistemologies (SHAPE) on which to base the studies contained within the thesis. The theoretical underpinnings of SHAPE can be found in the work conducted on social practice theory (SPT), which includes Bourdieu (2000), Foucault (1984), Reckwitz (2002); and which draws on situated learning theory, activity systems theory, actor network theory, social learning theory (e.g. Bandura, 1977; Lave, 1988; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Vygotsky, 1978) as discussed in Trowler (2012). In addition, SHAPE draws on the work of Bourdieu (1977) and his theory of habitus; and the burgeoning research into personal epistemology (epistemological beliefs is also used in the literature before this term, so they will be used interchangeably). This branch of research began with the seminal work of William Perry culminating in his text entitled ‘Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: A scheme’ (1970). The research was underpinned by an instrumentalist ethos (Dewey, 1930) and adopted a mixed methods research design. Phase One of the research process began with the confirmation of the reliability and validity of a quantitative measure of personal epistemology – The Discipline-focused Epistemological Belief Questionnaire (DEBQ, Hofer, 2000). In Phase One and Two, a shortened, more robust revised version of the DEBQ was then used to test for differences between participants at the group level in different modules of study, and for changes in personal epistemology over the duration of a semester of study. The Approaches to Teaching Inventory (Trigwell & Prosser, 2004) was used in both case studies, as was the DEBQ. The Approaches to Study Skills Inventory for Students (Entwistle, Tait & McCune, 2000) was used in the Psychology Case Study, which also included qualitative data captured via a series of interviews with fourteen students and two teachers from two psychology undergraduate year two modules; and a focus group involving three of the students who had participated in the interview phase. The different phases and methods of data collection allowed the author to make comparisons between the perceptions of, and approaches to, teaching and learning in the two case studies. 3 The analyses in Phase One resulted in a revised, abbreviated version of the DEBQ. The results from all four phases of the investigation suggest the utility of SHAPE as a concept on which to base future research. The findings from this series of studies suggest the personal epistemology of the teacher has the most profound effect on their students’ personal epistemologies as a group over a semester of study, whilst also recognising the contribution other elements of the teaching and learning context make. Variation within groups of students was also evident for dimensions of personal epistemology, and this influenced their perceptions of teaching, learning, and assessment; and how they approached their studies. The conclusions to be drawn are: SHAPE is a useful addition to the ‘tribes and territories’ (Trowler & Becher, 2001) discipline level of analysis and is a more nuanced, contextual unit of analysis as recognised and recommended in the text entitled ‘Tribes and Territories in the 21st Century: Rethinking the significance of disciplines in higher education’ (Trowler, Saunders & Bamber, 2012). The strength of SHAPE lies in its recognition of the epistemological, ontological, and axiological influences on the processes of teaching, learning, and assessment within a higher education context. As such, SHAPE has the potential to make a useful contribution in the changing horizon of higher education manifest in the modular, semester based curriculum, and the burgeoning of ‘interdisciplinarity’ and its challenge to the established academic disciplinary fields.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available