EARLI 2015


Clark Chinn Keynote

Epistemic Design: Creating Learning Environments to Foster Epistemic Growth

Clark Chinn

Rutgers University, United States

[Link to video] 

Epistemic design refers to the design of learning environments that foster growth in epistemic competencies.  These competencies include practical abilities to reason (e.g., to reason about evidence bearing on whether global climate is changing) as well as the ability to reflect metacognitively on epistemic processes (e.g., to reflect on what kinds of methods should be used to develop claims about global climate or what kinds of justifications should be used to support these claims). Epistemic design encompasses the creation of (1) effective inquiry tasks, (2) scaffolds that that support epistemic growth within these tasks, (3) assessments that enable teachers and students to monitor growth, and (4) social systems that sustain productive epistemic interactions. As curriculum standards increasingly emphasize the importance of learning to reason, the theory and practice of epistemic design becomes critical to achieving these standards. 

In the presentation, I will explicate a conceptual framework for epistemic design and discuss evidence for key components of this framework.  First, I will outline a theoretical model for conceptualizing epistemic cognition and its development. This model specifies aims, epistemic ideals, and reliable processes for achieving epistemic aims as critical components of epistemic cognition.  Second, I will discuss the design of assessments of epistemic cognition, especially those that can be embedded within instructional environments. To guide the design of these assessments, it is important to develop a theoretical taxonomy of the dimensions along which responses on these assessments systematically vary. I will present theoretical and empirical arguments for the use of epistemic assessments centered on practical reasoning.  Third, I will discuss how learning environments can be structured to promote robust epistemic growth. Empirical evidence supports the use of a range of epistemic scaffolds and social systems that foster epistemic growth, but much research is needed to identify additional features of effective epistemic designs. My overall goal is to develop a theoretical foundation that supports better epistemic design and identifies fruitful new directions for research and development.