POISE: Epistemological Foundations

POISE is an attempt to identify the epistemological assumptions of students, and their faculty, by exploring five facets of learning, the first letters of which stand for POISE: Pace, Ownership, Innateness, Simplicity, and Exactness.

POISE was established in the belief that all students are international students in that they are operating within a global context regardless of their discipline, nationality, or status. The POISE Project seeks to acknowledge and reinforce this truly international context by providing a consistent, supportive and transformative orientation to study, as a core provision for ALL students across ALL programmes of study.

The POISE Project is part of wider student support across any University and should be integrated into a comprehensive system of pastoral care. Originally intended to develop individually completed personal audits based on Schommer’s Epistemological Questionnaire (SEQ) and related methods, it was intended to then adapt and design a single instrument to guide the learner through a reflective self-evaluation of their epistemological perspectives and attitudes, and approaches to studying.

In practice, the project evolved to be much simpler. Using the words and reflections of faculty and students gathered through a series of workshops in early 2013, a series of video vignettes have been developed as ‘launch’ points for students to ask themselves questions about their approaches to studying.

Engagement with reflective questions is intended to prompt the student to generate their own personal ‘audit’ which they will discuss with their tutorial support.

Teaching staff (who are also Tutors)  will also have access to POISE, ensuring that they have a common frame of reference. Faculty themselves may have benefit in being reminded of how students can sometimes think and feel about the learning experience. Animations make this a safe a supportive window into the students’ concerns and hopes.


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

This paper explores the changing nature of higher education provision and questions whether the existing ‘traditional’ model of personal tutoring remains appropriate to the contemporary landscape. It details the elements of change that render obsolete the traditional view of personal tutoring as institutions move from being campus-based residential communities of learning to commuter non-residential
communities. The literature base informing retention and success in the student journey is reviewed and comes to the conclusion that foundations in epistemological self-belief are fundamental in under-pinning the relationship between academic guidance and student. It describes an attempt at facilitating dialogue between student and academic mentors around epistemological believes as part of the POISE Project and concludes that student support mechanisms must be more closely tailored to the nature of the institution and the lifestyle of the student.

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