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How much politics is there? Exploring students’ views on values and impartiality in political science from an epistemic cognition perspective
Stockholms universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten, Institutionen för de humanistiska och samhällsvetenskapliga ämnenas didaktik.ORCID-id: 0000-0002-8649-4632
2018 (Engelska)Ingår i: Programme and Book of Abstracts, 2018, s. 70-70Konferensbidrag, Muntlig presentation med publicerat abstract (Refereegranskat)
Abstract [en]

Research aims

In a review of research on teaching and learning political science, Craig (2014) calls for a more genuine intersection of political science and learning, and a stronger focus on learning processes. Studies of other disciplinary fields have pointed to the fact that epistemic beliefs are an important aspect of students’ learning processes (Maggioni, Fox & Alexander, 2010), and in this paper we focus in particular on students’ epistemic beliefs in political science.

Students’ epistemic beliefs are difficult to grasp and analyse “head on”. In the study, students’ epistemological beliefs were analysed through students’ experiences of values and impartiality in teaching and classroom dialogues (c.f. Hofer & Pintrich 1997).

Theoretical framework

The research field on epistemic beliefs takes an interest in students’ beliefs about knowledge and the nature of the discipline they are taught. Focus is on “how individuals come to know, the theories and beliefs they hold about knowing, and the manner in which such epistemological premises are a part of and an influence on the cognitive processes of thinking and reasoning” (Hofer 2000: 378). Hence, students’ understandings of what knowledge is, and how knowledge is produced, are of interest. These two aspects have been operationalized into four dimensions (certainty of knowledge, simplicity of knowledge, source of knowledge and justification of knowledge (Hofer 2000: 380) that aim to capture ‘the nature of the discipline’ (Mason 2016).

These dimensions might shed light on potential disciplinary differences when it comes to for example university students’ beliefs about the certainty of knowledge (c.f. Hofer 2000). They may also add to our understanding of students’ learning in the academic discipline of political science (c.f. Craig 2014; Maggioni et al. 2010). By investigating student experiences within a framework of epistemic cognition in a social science discipline, we hope to contribute to current discussions concerning epistemic beliefs being domain general or specific (Muis et al 2006). As of yet, studies have been conducted in psychology (Peter et al 2015) and history (VanSledright & Maggioni 2016), but to our knowledge not in other social science disciplines.

Methodology

We conducted 13 interviews with students after one semester of studies. The interviews were open-ended and conversational (Kvale 1996: 19) and transcribed and analysed using abductive thematic analysis (c.f. Fereday et al. 2006). This hybrid process of inductive and deductive thematic analysis is a methodological approach that aims to integrate data-driven coding with theory-driven coding. The four dimensions - certainty of knowledge, simplicity of knowledge, source of knowledge and justification of knowledge (Hofer 2000: 380) - were theory-driven codes.

Results

Results show that the students are uncertain about the epistemology of political science. For example, students oscillate between different ways of making sense of the existence of values.

Values are seen both as something that constitute a threat toward objective knowledge, and at the same time, as a natural part of the discipline. In regard to certainty of knowledge, students are unsure of whether certain knowledge is possible or not in the discipline.

Students suggest the use of different but equally unproductive strategies to handle the existence of values; they wish for teachers to promote values that students themselves sympathize with, and for teachers to promote values in a hidden way. This can be seen as justifying the production of knowledge in the classroom. The production of “biased knowledge” on behalf of the teachers is accepted if it students themselves sympathize with this knowledge, or, if it is introduced in the classroom in a subtle way.

Interestingly, the results relate to epistemological tensions in political science. The epistemology – or theory of knowledge – of the discipline may not be totally fixed (Marsh & Stoker 2010), which can complicate students’ efforts to understand what constitutes knowledge in the discipline. While these results can be regarded as discipline specific epistemic beliefs, we believe that disciplines with multiple, or dominant but existing multiple epistemologies, can potentially bring about similar challenges.

Conclusion

From a theoretical perspective, this paper contributes to current discussions concerning epistemic beliefs being domain general or specific (Hofer 2000; Muis et al 2006). From an empirical perspective, the results contribute to our understanding of subject discipline epistemological beliefs, and to our understanding of teaching and learning processes in political science.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
2018. s. 70-70
Nyckelord [en]
political science, epistemological beliefs, values
Nationell ämneskategori
Utbildningsvetenskap
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-163997OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-163997DiVA, id: diva2:1279127
Konferens
11th International Conference on Conceptual Change. Conceptual Change and Epistemic Cognition, Klagenfurt, Austria, August 29 - September 1, 2018
Forskningsfinansiär
VetenskapsrådetTillgänglig från: 2019-01-15 Skapad: 2019-01-15 Senast uppdaterad: 2019-08-26Bibliografiskt granskad

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