The Epistemic Insight Initiative​

  • TWCF Number:


  • Project Duration:

    January 15, 2019 - January 14, 2022

  • Core Funding Area:

    Big Questions

  • Priority:

    Big Questions in Classrooms

  • Region:


  • Amount Awarded:


  • Grant DOI*:

  • *A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Director: Professor Berry Billingsley

Institution: Canterbury Christ Church University

How can the English education system open its classrooms to big questions? What can it do to help young people access a range of ways to think about integration of knowledge across disciplines?

Berry Billingsley aims research these questions by helping students and teachers engage with epistemic insight (EI). EI means "knowledge about knowledge." In particular, EI addresses knowledge about disciplines and how they interact. Previous research has shown that students express interest in big questions of the universe and our place in it. But pedagogical pressures and barriers dampen their enthusiasm. Without effective teaching in primary and secondary school to develop students’ appreciation, their interest in the frontiers of knowledge goes away.

This project seeks to determine how teacher educators, trainee teachers, and established teachers can foster students’ interest in big questions and appreciation of the complex nature of reality. The team will provide teachers with the expertise and means to teach epistemic insight in each of three subject-related categories. It will also help them understand the ways that certain pedagogies can adversely affect students’ learning journeys.

Three research sub-projects will target teaching in primary and secondary school (Key Stages 1 through 4). Each subproject is further divided into three research studies designed to take place either in the context of initial teacher education or school teaching. These sub-projects are supported by three components:

  • the provision of an EI learning portal;
  • activities and dissemination to facilitate consortium and partner organization engagement; and
  • a core project management requirement.

Research findings and effective strategies will be published in a framework for education, Engaging with Big Questions and the Development of Epistemic Insight in School-Aged Children. The framework will include learning objectives relating to EI organized sequentially, from lower primary school through to upper secondary school. Although the primary context for this project is the education system in England, the team envisages that the research and strategies will be useful in other international contexts.


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