Collaborative Epistemic Discourse in Classroom Information Seeking Tasks

Knight, Simon and Mercer, Neil (2016). Collaborative Epistemic Discourse in Classroom Information Seeking Tasks. Technology, Pedagogy and Education



We discuss the relationship between information seeking, and epistemic beliefs – beliefs about the source, structure, complexity, and stability of knowledge – in the context of collaborative information seeking discourses. We further suggest that both information seeking, and epistemic cognition research agendas have suffered from a lack of attention to how information seeking as a collaborative activity is mediated by talk between partners – an area we seek to address in this paper. A small-scale observational study using sociocultural discourse analysis was conducted with eight eleven year old pupils who carried out search engine tasks in small groups. Qualitative and quantitative analysis were performed on their discussions using sociocultural discourse analytic techniques. Extracts of the dialogue are reported, informed by concordance analysis and quantitative coding of dialogue duration. We find that 1) discourse which could be characterised as ‘epistemic’ is identifiable in student talk, 2) that it is possible to identify talk which is more or less productive, and 3) that epistemic talk is associated with positive learning outcomes.

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