About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 3993-4002
Publication year: 2011
ISBN: 978-84-615-0441-1
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2011
Location: Barcelona, Spain

TEACHER: THE DE [FAULT] EPISTEMIC AUTHORITY IN THE SINGAPORE CLASSROOM

F. Hussain, P. Towndrow, D. Hogan, D. Kwek, R. Rahim

National Institute of Education (SINGAPORE)
Epistemic authority (EA) denotes a source that exerts determinative influence on the formation of ... knowledge. Individuals trust information dispensed by epistemic authorities, assimilate it into their own repertoire and rely on it. In this respect, epistemic authorities, as reliable sources of knowledge, define the scope of legitimate, truthful, and factual information and enable individuals to construct their own knowledge (Raviv, Bar-Tal, Raviv, Biran & Sela, 2003).

The concept of EA has its roots in knowledge acquisition and the role of the teacher as a source of knowledge. Raviv et al. (2003) argued that in schools, teachers are expected to function as epistemic authorities, that is, be perceived by their students as reliable sources of information, at least in the discipline they teach. This seems to be particularly true for teachers in Singapore as the pedagogy leans largely towards the direct knowledge transmission model and a high-stakes assessment system.

Preliminary findings of a large on-going study of pedagogical practices in Singapore show that teachers implicitly adopt an epistemic stance towards the locus of epistemic authority in the classroom. This is consistent with the study by Raviv et al. (2003) which showed that (a) teachers perceive themselves as being more of an epistemic authority than their students consider them; (b) teachers believe that students perceive them as being more of an epistemic authority than the students actually think.

Drawing on data from this study, the paper highlights that the teacher shifts epistemic authority in the classroom not merely by privileging other sources of information but by privileging other sources of knowledge in the classroom (Towndrow, 2010). In the Singapore classroom, teachers often privilege other sources of information such as printed materials or digital tools. To a limited extent, an explicit appeal is made to authority figures, scientific evidence and domain-specific knowledge. However, rarely do teachers recognize students’ opinions or judgments as sources of knowledge, i.e. sources of ‘legitimate, truthful and factual information’ (Raviv et al. 2003). The challenge then is for teachers to create curricular spaces that enable students to share and develop their unique insights (Anonymous, 2006) and provide scope for pupils to convert their narrative authority or authority that they have through their lived experiences into meaningful epistemic authority… (Barton, 2008). Given the current emphasis on standardization and examinations, this shift in attitude may be difficult to achieve.

This paper attempts to problematise classroom practice by raising conceptual questions about the implications of the teacher implicitly adopting an epistemic stance towards the locus of epistemic authority in the classroom. The paper also discusses the implications of the role of information and communication technology in establishing and maintaining alternative sources of epistemic authority in the classroom. How can a ‘shift in epistemic privilege’ (Popen, 2002) alter pupils’ experiences? The classroom’s hierarchical nature, power structure, and distinct divisions between the teacher and the students hinder student participation and learning (Qi, 2005). This makes it imperative to examine ways to enhance the learning experiences of pupils through a meaningful change in the epistemic climate of the classroom.
@InProceedings{HUSSAIN2011TEA,
author = {Hussain, F. and Towndrow, P. and Hogan, D. and Kwek, D. and Rahim, R.},
title = {TEACHER: THE DE [FAULT] EPISTEMIC AUTHORITY IN THE SINGAPORE CLASSROOM},
series = {3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN11 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-615-0441-1},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2011},
year = {2011},
pages = {3993-4002}}
TY - CONF
AU - F. Hussain AU - P. Towndrow AU - D. Hogan AU - D. Kwek AU - R. Rahim
TI - TEACHER: THE DE [FAULT] EPISTEMIC AUTHORITY IN THE SINGAPORE CLASSROOM
SN - 978-84-615-0441-1/2340-1117
PY - 2011
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2011
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 3rd International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN11 Proceedings
SP - 3993
EP - 4002
ER -
F. Hussain, P. Towndrow, D. Hogan, D. Kwek, R. Rahim (2011) TEACHER: THE DE [FAULT] EPISTEMIC AUTHORITY IN THE SINGAPORE CLASSROOM, EDULEARN11 Proceedings, pp. 3993-4002.
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