Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Examining Undergraduate Students' Conceptions of Inquiry in Terms of Epistemic Belief Differences

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Examining Undergraduate Students' Conceptions of Inquiry in Terms of Epistemic Belief Differences

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the context of learning and instruction, inquiry is a form of self-directed learning that makes students become more responsible for determining what they need to learn, identifying and using resources that can help them learn in the most efficient and effective way, as well as assessing and reporting self-progress in learning (Henson, 1986; MartinHansen, 2002; Roy, Kustra, & Borin, 2003). As learning becomes more self-directed, it seems logical to assume that beliefs will play an essential role. Beliefs are instrumental in defining tasks and behaviour: the ways by which individuals interpret, plan, and make decisions about what they do (Kuzborska, 2011; Pajares, 1992; Stipek, Givvin, Salmon, & MacGyvers, 2001). Hence, they have the potential to promote or impede self-directed learning. Bearing in mind that inquiry is a form of self-directed learning, the way individuals believe about the nature of knowledge likely determines their decisions and actual engagement in inquiry tasks. For example, having an attitude towards knowledge that questions and doubts simplistic answers or solutions promotes willingness to engage in inquiry. Such scepticism is considered an essential habit of mind for engagement in inquiry, and it implies reluctance to accept existing interpretations or the assertions of authorities as final truths; consequently, it instils a desire to find out answers for oneself (Beyer, 1971; Greco, 2000; Llewellyn, 2005).

The generation of problems or questions that lead students to autonomous and active engagement in authentic tasks so that they achieve higher-level learning goals characterizes inquiry learning and instruction. However, enactment of inquiry in classrooms does not always go smoothly. There are potential barriers that hinder its successful implementation (Aulls & Shore, 2008; Shore, Aulls, & Delcourt, 2008). A good portion of the literature concerning the challenges and enabling conditions for implementing inquiry learning and instruction has focused on factors outside the individual learner. The National Research Council (NRC, 2000) cited: barriers related to teachers and administrative factors, such as teachers' beliefs and values (about students, teaching, and education); limited teaching abilities; challenges in relation to assessment and new teacher and student roles; inadequate in-service education; resistance from principals and superintendents; lack of resources; and priority being given to content coverage to ensure that students are prepared for exams. Roehrig and Luft's (2004) study strengthens the claims of the NRC. Their study examined the constraints experienced by beginning secondary school science teachers in implementing inquiry lessons. They identified the main constraints for the enactment of inquiry to be teachers' understanding of the nature of science and scientific inquiry, content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, teaching beliefs, and concerns about management. Aulls and Shore (2008) further added factors related to the learners themselves as potential impediments. Students' risk-taking behaviour, content knowledge, readiness to take responsibility, motivation, and thoughtfulness were identified as impeding or enabling factors for inquiry learning and instruction.

One matter worth considering in relation to success in inquiry learning and instruction is the role students' beliefs about knowledge and knowing (epistemic beliefs) may play in their engagement as well as their understanding of inquiry. There is considerable empirical support for the role of epistemic beliefs in students' learning. Epistemic beliefs influence motivation to learn (e.g., Braten & Stroms0, 2004; Muis & Franco, 2009; Ravindran, Greene, & Debacker, 2005), learning strategy use (e.g., Chan, 2007; Dahl, Bals, & Turi, 2005; Phan, 2008; Schommer-Aikins & Easter, 2008), and subsequent performance (e.g., Bendixen & Hartley, 2003; Schommer, 1990; Schommer & Walker, 1995). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.