Table 3. Some of the kinds of instructional practices and conditions that are likely to stimulate development of more sophisticated epistemological beliefs (From: Miri et al. 2007, Macllellan and Soden 2004, King and Kitchener 2002, Hofer 2001, Southerland et al. 2001, Tsui 1999, Dennick and Exley 1998, Dole and Sinatra 1998, Brown 1997, Terenzini et al 1995, King and Kitchener 1994).
Actively engage students in higher level thinking
• Raising doubt about the adequacy of understanding about an issue to promote
reflective thinking e.g. through analysis of ill-structured and real-life
problems. Problem-based learning also increases relevance of the work to
students increasing motivation, and assists development of skills for dealing
with messy real-life issues.
• Explicit requirements for students to think about knowledge, evidence,
reliability and validity etc. (e.g. through practicing and being taught skills
of gathering and evaluating data).
• Promote reflection and active examination of assumptions about knowledge
through extensive participation of students in class and requiring students to
work collaboratively, especially when they are given opportunities to reflect on
how their knowledge is constructed. Participation and cooperative learning can
occur in focused discussions, student-led seminars, problem based learning, role
play etc. Discussion around controversial issues may be particularly
• Students need to be actively engaged in the classroom, not just seen as
recipients of transmitted information.
• Discussion of what counts as evidence needs to be a feature of course
• Students should be required to give reasons for the content of their work as
this can reveal the level of sophistication of thinking e.g. by requiring
students to relate to the evidence or the source of the information they
Provision of an appropriate environment for promoting engagement with
higher level thinking.
• Teaching needs to stimulate students to ascertain for themselves what is
epistemologically confusing or problematic.
• Instructors need to show respect for student assumptions regardless of
• Students require feedback and support, e.g. at both cognitive and emotional
• Individuals need to be motivated to process new information.
• Students need to comprehend information and find it plausible in order to
feel some comfort with the task, e.g. use of generally familiar
• Students need to be accountable for their own goal achievements to get
beyond surface level engagement e.g. through provision of appropriate rewards
and environments that reinforce student expectations that they need to be
accountable for their own learning.