Seven Methodologies Professors Use to Promote Student Epistemological Development and Self-Directedness

By Carrie J. Boden-McGill, Sherri Franklin-Guy, Dona Gibson, Tennille Lasker-Scott, Rosalind R. Scudder and Jerry T. Smartt.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Research on personal epistemology (Boden, Smartt, Franklin-Guy, & Scudder, 2006; Perry, 1968; Schommer, 1990; Schommer-Aikins, Duell, & Barker, 2003) suggests that factors such as students’ beliefs about the structure of knowledge, the certainty of knowledge, the sources of knowledge, the control of learning, and the speed of knowledge acquisition affect the learning process. This study explores the strategies that professors implement in order to promote the epistemological development of students by encouraging them to think for themselves, to question authority, and to become self-directed. Participants in this study were professors teaching in graduate programs at two universities in an urban setting in the Midwestern region of the United States. Open-ended essay questions were administered online, and follow-up in-person, telephone, and email interviews were conducted. The data were coded and categorized using the constant-comparative method. Seven themes of commonly employed methodologies emerged. These included the utilization of case studies, debate/guided discussions, the Socratic Method, reflective assignments, technology, self-directed learning, and text/article critiques. The methodologies described in this study share many common characteristics: they are active, applied, process-oriented, challenging, and formative. While there are certainly many effective teaching techniques that one can utilize at the university level, the authors suggest that the methodologies outlined in this study can be put into practice in order to promote student epistemological development and self-directedness.

Keywords: Epistemological Beliefs, Schommer Epistemological Questionnaire, Self-Directed Learning, Critical Thinking, Independent Thinking, Role of Authority, Case Studies, Debate/Guided Discussion, Socratic Method, Reflection, Technology, Learning Contracts, Article Critique, Active Learning

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 15, Issue 11, pp.11-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 623.439KB).

Dr. Carrie J. Boden-McGill

Associate Professor, Graduate Program Coordinator of Adult Education, Department of Counseling, Adult, and Rehabilitation Education, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA

Dr. Carrie J. Boden is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Master’s Degree in Adult Education at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Dr. Boden holds a Ph.D. with an emphasis in Adult Education from Kansas State University, a M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wichita State University, and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Bethel College. She has served on the planning committees for several international conferences and as a referee for The International Journal of Learning. Dr. Boden has co-coordinated a Sister Cities International Exchange with La Salle University in Cancun, Mexico, traveled to South America as a Fulbright Scholar with Project ECHO, and participated in the NGO Forum on Women in Beijing, China.

Dr. Sherri Franklin-Guy

Assistant Professor, Department of Educational Psychology, Special Education Program, California State University, San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, USA

Dr. Franklin-Guy is an assistant professor at California State University, San Bernardino, in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling. She teaches courses in the assessment and evaluation of special populations in the Special Education Program. She received her doctorate in Communication Disorders and Sciences, and her research interests include the self-concept and epistemological beliefs of students with language-learning disabilities.

Dr. Dona Gibson

Friends University, Kansas, USA

Dr. Dona Gibson is Professor of Education and Psychology at Friends University in Wichita, KS, where she also directs the Master of Arts in Teaching Program. Dr. Gibson holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Kansas State University, a M.Ed. in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Wichita State University and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Friends University. Her research interests include malleability of dispositions of graduate students toward diversity.

Tennille Lasker-Scott

Graduate Student, Adult Education , Department of Counseling, Adult, and Rehabilitation Education, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Conway, Arkansas, USA

Tennille earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Human Resources from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is currently studying in the Adult Education graduate program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Tennille currently works for the Arkansas Department of Community Correction where she facilitates program management and evaluation. Tennille hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Adult Education or Workforce Management.

Dr. Rosalind R. Scudder

Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas, USA

Dr. Scudder is a Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders with an area of specialization in speech-language pathology. Her research interests include the use of virtual reality for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Epistemological Beliefs of University Students, the Pedagogy of University Teaching, and Leadership Development for University Faculty and Staff.

Dr. Jerry T. Smartt

Friends University, Wichita, Kansas, USA

Dr. Jerry Traughber Smartt is Director of Foreign Languages and Professor of Spanish at Friends University in Wichita, KS. Her dissertation concerned self-repair behavior of developing oral language of college-level students. For 25 years, she has planned and implemented study abroad programs to Europe and Latin America. During the past 16 years, she has coordinated the exchange study abroad program with La Salle University in Cancun, Mexico. She has referred for The International Journal of Learning.

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