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  • Cited by 24
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

3 - Epistemic climate in elementary classrooms


In today's elementary classrooms, children are expected to acquire knowledge and skills to ensure that they will be able to maintain and further the cultural, economic, and scientific accomplishments of our societies as responsible citizens. As a result, early on in their school career, elementary school students are exposed to a diversity of knowledge and skills explained to them by their teachers, systematized in curricula and syllabi, and conveyed through instruction, school books, and other educational materials.

The goal of this chapter is to consider how the actual nature of the knowledge and skills to be learned is portrayed and perceived in elementary classrooms. That is, how is the nature of knowledge and knowing presented by teachers, instruction, and educational materials? From an educational perspective, is knowledge conveyed as black-and white, stripped from its complexity and ambiguity, and assessed in a right-or-wrong fashion? From a more disciplinary perspective, are different ways of knowing along with their characteristic subjectivities and tentativeness acknowledged by teachers, instruction, and educational materials? Correspondingly, what are the beliefs of elementary school students about knowledge and knowing and are their epistemic beliefs influenced by (such) common classroom components? Do elementary students believe in the objectivity of knowledge and the existence of absolute truth? Or do they think of knowledge as being more delicate and subject to change? Taking all of these different classroom components and influences into consideration, the overarching questions of this chapter include: what is the epistemic climate of elementary classrooms, what does it look like, and what is its possible educational potential?