Investigating epistemic cognition in Japanese university English majors

Smiley, Jim
(2022) Investigating epistemic cognition in Japanese university English majors. Doctor of Education thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Fourth-year undergraduate students' graduation theses in a Department of a Japanese University frequently fail to exhibit characteristics of sophisticated epistemic cognition. Theses that show one-sided arguments that neglect to question the truth value of any evidence used in support of a thesis' claim, or to include limitations to claims in the form of analysing the evidence or discussing counter-arguments, are the norm. Prior research has indicated a significant relationship between students' epistemic cognition and their academic output. This thesis explores the influence of a targeted pedagogic intervention in epistemic cognition in undergraduate Japanese student writers, asking the research question, ``How do Japanese University English Majors experience and think about knowledge in terms of epistemic cognition?'' A literature review found that information about the epistemic cognitive processes used by Japanese third-year undergraduate students preparing for graduation thesis writing is mostly unknown. A purposive sample of nine Japanese third-year English major undergraduates was invited to participate. These students wrote in their second language (English). Three forms of data were generated in this project: semi-structured interview texts, pre- and post-intervention writing samples and online discussion board texts. A qualitative approach utilising template analysis was used on the semi-structured interview and discussion board texts, and the pre- and post-writing samples were analysed for epistemic cognition. At the commencement of the intervention, participants' beliefs could be established at the group level. These were at the upper naive end of the epistemic cognitive continuum. However, by the end of the intervention, beliefs became more fragmentary with some participants developing more educationally availing multiplistic beliefs, which is shown in the movement away from strong beliefs in fixed authority-led truth claims towards the acceptance of multiple perspectives. Participants at both time points expressed strong beliefs in the nature of knowledge as being either factual or opinions. I conclude that development towards multiplism is possible within a fifteen-week pedagogic intervention. Additionally, a fact/opinion knowledge structure permeates beliefs and provides some reasons for the lack of epistemic focus in academic writing. The small sample size inhibits a generalisation of these results. Moreover, the variation in epistemic cognition between participants at the end of the intervention suggests that more research is required to achieve a fuller characterisation of epistemic cognitive processes in third-year Japanese undergraduates.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Education)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 09 Feb 2022 12:23
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 21:14
DOI: 10.17638/03148162