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Epistemology and Online Learning
Here are the handouts from my presentation at the Northeast WebCT Users Group on March 30, 2006 in Philly.

This presentation links the concepts of epistemology and epistemological beliefs with the tools and techniques of online teaching, helping attendees view and craft their online pedagogy through their beliefs about knowledge and knowledge creation.  Included with look at theory and practice are examples and suggestions for using RSS, podcasts, blogs, and discussion boards in WebCT.   How do our views on the structure and source of knowledge affect the pedagogies and technologies we employ?  What are the epistemological implications of Web-based technologies such as RSS?

For those unfamiliar with epistemology this is a good overview the concept and its applications for teaching and learning.

For those interested in newer technologies, this presentation puts them into a broad pedagogical framework with attention to technical and implementation issues.

Epistemology and Online Learning Bibliography


Buehl, M. & Alexander, P. (2005). Motivation and Performance differences in students’ domain-specific epistemological belief profiles


Hofer, B. K. & Pintrich, P.R. (Eds.). (2002). Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing.   Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.


King, P.M. & Kitchener, K.S. (2004). Reflective judgment: Theory and research on the development of epistemic assumptions through adulthood Educational Psychologist, 39 (1) 5-18.


King, P.M. & K.S. Kitchener.   (1994). Developing reflective judgment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Kist, W. (2004). New literacies in action: Teaching and learning in multiple media.   New York: Teachers’ College Press.


O’Reilly (2005). What is Web 2.0.   Retrieved March 15, 2006 from

Perry, W. G. (1998). Forms of intellectual and ethical development in the college years: a scheme. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (Originally published in 1970. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.)


Prensky, M. (2005). Search vs. research:   Or, the fear of the Wikipedia overcome by new understanding for a digital era.   Retrieved March 15, 2006 from


Schommer, M. & Walker, K. (1997). Epistemological believes and valuing school: Considerations for college admissions and retention .   Research in Higher Education 38(2). 173-186


Stoll, C. (1999). The plague of PowerPoint.   In High-tech heretic: Reflections of a computer contrarian (179-184).   New York: Anchor.


Stross, R. (March, 12, 2006).Anonymous source is not the same as open source. New York Times.


Tufte, E. (2003). The cognitive style of PowerPoint. Cheshire, CT: Graphics Press.


Wikipedia.   (2006) Epistemilogy. Retreived March 26th, 2006 from


Epistemological Beliefs




Epistemological Beliefs are often considered a lens thought which individuals interpret information, set standards and decide on an appropriate course of action (Buehl & Alexander, 2005, p. 700)



Five Dimensions of Epistemological Beliefs (Buehl & Alexander, p. 699)



  • Structure of knowledge: Is knowledge simple of complex?   Is it isolated or integrated?
  • Stability of knowledge: Is knowledge certain or tentative?
  • Source of knowledge: Does knowledge originate from external source or from personal experience?
  • Nature of knowledge acquisition: Is knowledge acquired quickly or gradually; is the process easy or effortful?
  • Ability to acquire knowledge: Is the ability to learn fixed or developed over time?




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