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Newly uploaded, here is the final paper that was previewed in blog postings during December 2014.

Atkinson, S. P. (2014) Rethinking personal tutoring systems: the need to build on a foundation of epistemological beliefs. BPP University Working Papers. London: BPP University.

Image of the cover of Rethinking Personal Tutoring Systems
Rethinking Personal Tutoring Systems

My argument is that in order to tailor effective support for students we must understand better their fundamental beliefs about learning; that to have a conversation about 'our' values we need to understand how others experience their own.

This was the purpose of the POISE project, an HEA Change Initiative and this paper is a summary of its conclusions.

There is much work to be done to make these insights more accessible to rank and file tutors in higher education but the POISE website is a start. As always I am delighted to hear about any use made of the work and to enter into a dialogue with anyone working on similar initiatives.

Charoula Angeli and Nicos Valanides, both at the University of Cyprus, have recently published a fascinating brief study of research entitled "Epistemological Beliefs and Ill-structured Problem-solving in Solo and Paired Contexts"

This mixed-method exploration sought to examine the different relationships between epistemological beliefs and quality of thinking when an individual encountered an ill-structured problem on their own and then with someone else. Their results suggest "there was not a systematic connection between epistemological beliefs and ill-structured problem solving in either solo or paired contexts." They go on to suggest that emotional and cultural factors have an impact on individual ability to resolve the problem and advocate further research on this dimension of epistemology.

They used an interesting variation on King and Kitchener’s (1994) Seven Stage Model using just three dimensions. I can imagine some symbiosis with Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck (1961) Value Orientations framework might add value to their deliberations.

A simplified epistemological beliefs rubric

View of knowledge:
Knowledge is assumed to be either right or wrong. If it is not absolutely certain, it is only temporarily uncertain and will soon be determined. A person can know with certainty through three sources: (a) direct observation; (b) what “feels right;” and (c) authorities (experts, teachers, parents).
Concept of justification:
Beliefs need no justification or they are justified through an authority figure such as a teacher or a parent. Most questions are assumed to have a right answer so there is little or no conflict in making decisions about disputed issues.

View of knowledge:
Knowledge is uncertain (there is no right or wrong) and idiosyncratic to the individual. Knowledge is seen as subjective and contextual.
Concept of justification:
Beliefs are justified by giving reasons and evidence idiosyncratic to the individual. Beliefs are filtered through a person’s experiences and criteria for judgement.

View of knowledge:
Knowledge is constructed by comparing evidence and opinion on different sides of an issue. Knowledge is the outcome of the process of reasonable inquiry leading to a well-informed understanding.
Concept of justification:
Beliefs are justified by comparing evidence and opinion from different perspectives. Conclusions are defended as representing the most complete, plausible understanding of an issue on the basis of the available evidence.


Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2012). Epistemological Beliefs and Ill-structured Problem-solving in Solo and Paired Contexts. Educational Technology & Society, 15 (1), 2–14.

King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers

Kluckhohn, F. (Rockwood), & Strodtbeck, F. L. (1961). Variations in Value Orientations. Evanston, Ill: Row, Peterson.

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