Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 18, No. 2, April 2012, 263–275
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study investigated the relationships between Australian early years teachers’ epistemic beliefs and their beliefs about children’s moral learning.
The participants were three hundred and seventy-nine teachers completed a survey about their personal epistemic beliefs and their beliefs about children’s moral learning.
The survey measure included two separate questionnaires: (1) The Personal Epistemic Beliefs Survey (PEBS) and (2) Beliefs about Moral Learning Survey (BMLS). These two measures were used to investigate the nature of epistemic beliefs and beliefs about moral learning held by early years teachers in Australia, and the extent to which these beliefs might be related.
Results indicated that early years teachers held relatively sophisticated epistemic beliefs. The participants held epistemic beliefs reflecting views that knowledge is not certain; that knowledge is more than simple facts and that learning can take time; that truths are not absolute and that what is true today is not necessarily true tomorrow. With respect to beliefs about moral learning, teachers were less likely to agree that teachers had a role in children’s moral learning or that schools were the context where moral learning should take place.
Furthermore, the findings indicated that the teachers who endorsed a view of children as capable of taking responsibility for their own actions also tended to have more sophisticated epistemic beliefs. In contrast, teachers who were more likely to agree that children need to learn the rules and that teachers had a role in children’s moral learning, viewed knowledge as certain ability as innate and moral truth as unchanging.
Results are discussed in terms of the implications for moral pedagogy in the classroom and teacher professional development. In contextual moral pedagogies, teachers help children to think about a range of viewpoints in a way that is respectful and caring of others. This implies a view of children as competent, as reflected in the results of our study.
This research shows that a particular type of teacher beliefs, namely epistemic beliefs, may be a useful construct to pursue further in order to understand better how teachers engage in contextual moral pedagogies for the ‘rich child’. It is suggested that in conjunction with explicitly reflecting on epistemic beliefs, professional development may need to assist teachers to ascertain how their beliefs might relate to their moral pedagogies in order to make any adjustments.