Have you ever heard a student complain, “I’m never going to use this outside of class”? Or when you start to discuss the importance of their understanding the material for their future success, “All that matters is my grade”? These comments are frustrating and extremely telling.

Students’ beliefs about knowledge can determine what they focus on in a course and their motivation for learning. Jennifer Anderson-Meger conducted a study and found that “majority of students’ knowledge and beliefs of knowledge are based on their personal life experiences and relationships with others.” While this shows that most of student beliefs about knowledge are formed out of the classroom, we should focus on how we can help evolve those beliefs to enhance student learning.

Some specific strategies that Jennifer Anderson-Merger provides, include:

  • “allowing students to choose topics for research;
  • encouraging targeted peer discussion about knowledge beliefs and their impact on learning;
  • letting students form their own work groups (and then teach conflict resolution for the ensuing challenges);
  • providing lecture material (yes, some lecture) on what is epistemology and how it informs learning; and
  • designing a variety of exercises to have students compare sources of knowledge when dealing with a difficult scenario.”

This semester, think about what you can do to help expand your students’ beliefs about knowledge. This will hopefully result in a better semester in your class, and a future filled with deeper learning for your students.

Learn more at Faculty Focus.

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