POISE Framework

Project POISE is NOT about creating a comprehensive learning support resource, as valuable as that may be, rather it 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.

Understanding this interrelated dimensions of the learner means creating a solid foundation from which to build effective resources.


We followed a process of identifying the themes in the epistemological literature and linking these to those areas of student ‘need’ of which we are already aware.

We felt it was appropriate to develop a framework for student and faculty engagement based on the literature in order that future materials or issues would be contextualised. We are seeking to avoid the development of diverse and disconnected resources.

Based around five dominant themes in the epistemological literature It was decided that we would use POISE (as an aide memoir or pneumonic) and follow a similar pattern.

This resulted in the following matrix.

Pneumonic Binary concept Belief statements (after (Schommer, 1990)) Scholarship roots
Pace Quick or not at all Learning is quick or not all (Quick Learning) (Schoenfeld, 1983)
Ownership Authority or Reason Knowledge is handed down by authority (Omniscient Authority) (Perry, 1968)
Innateness Innate or Acquired The ability to learn is innate rather than acquired (Innate Ability) (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)
Simplicity Simple or Complex Knowledge is simple rather than complex (Simple Knowledge) (Perry, 1968)
Exactness Certain or Tentative Knowledge is certain rather than tentative (Certain Knowledge) (Perry, 1968)

The notion of binaries presents an opportunity to engage in a ‘dialogue about beliefs’. We suggest that it is appropriate to establish the beliefs about learning that underpin a student’s (or faculty member’s) approach to learning and teaching, rather than to identify a ‘problem’ and tackle it with an intervention in isolation.

For example, if it is believed that a student is not fully aware, or in tune with, the institution’s guidance on plagiarism, it would be useful to introduce this dimension of academic practice by first exploring the question of whether knowledge is based on authority or reason. Without a fundamental understanding that the western academic tradition expects students to develop their own reasoning skills, and to acknowledge pre-existing authority in a particular way, one cannot effectively explore the detailed nature of academic referencing, citations and intellectual ownership.

These five themes have emerged as a series of five web-pages, each containing a dialogue between two different perspectives, which explore each of the binary opposites outlined above. Each short video (less than three minutes) introduces the broad concept through opposing dialogue.

These short video will ‘signpost’ the additional resources that are available to support work in this area.

Following the ‘Authority-Reason’ example above, plagiarism will have been mentioned in the conversation, and an accompanying resource might be a student describing their own struggle in coming to terms with plagiarism and what help they sought, or a link to plagiarism support guidance.

It was determined that the scholarship framework was inaccessible to students, and perhaps the majority of faculty, and so the five dimensions of epistemological belief were re-cast as ‘open questions

Pneumonic Binary concept POISE Questions Scholarship roots
Pace Quick or not at all Is hard work enough? (Schoenfeld, 1983)
Ownership Authority or Reason Who has the answers? (Perry, 1968)
Innateness Innate or Acquired Who is responsible for my learning? (Dweck & Leggett, 1988)
Simplicity Simple or Complex Is there a simple answer? (Perry, 1968)
Exactness Certain or Tentative Is there always a right answer (Perry, 1968)


These five questions are each represented as web pages, each with video elements. The five pages will be linked to pre-existing resources, many of which are available freely on the World-Wide Web. Over time we anticipate developing our own contextualised resources in association with Learning Support Services, Library Services, and Inclusion and Learning Support.

Faculty can direct a student to individual pages on the POISE portal as an introduction to an intervention resource, or they may choose to use the portal as a means of introducing, in-class, a theme for debate.

The video vignettes all have appropriate text transcript alternatives. Any complex terminology can be also be captioned. The videos are reflections of real conversations had with faculty and students but are ‘scripted’ to ensure brevity and clarity.


Dweck, C. S., & Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95(2), 256–273.

Perry, W. G. (1968). Patterns of Development in Thought and Values of Students in a Liberal Arts College: A Validation of a Scheme. Final Report. Office of Education (DHEW), Washington, DC. Bureau of Research.

Schoenfeld, A. H. (1983). Beyond the Purely Cognitive: Belief Systems, Social Cognitions, and Metacognitions As Driving Forces in Intellectual Performance*. Cognitive Science, 7(4), 329–363.

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 498–504.

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