An exploration of teachers' ontological and epistemological beliefs and their approaches to teaching within an IBMYP environment

Kelly, Mary C. (2013) An exploration of teachers' ontological and epistemological beliefs and their approaches to teaching within an IBMYP environment. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This dissertation uses a case study approach to investigate teachers' beliefs about the nature of reality (ontology) and knowledge (epistemology) within an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program environment. The study explores the possible impact of these beliefs on teachers' approaches to teaching.

An interest in teachers' perspectives regarding the nature of reality and knowledge emerged during modular work associated with a Professional Doctorate in Teacher Education with the University of Nottingham. The final modular assignment, prior to the onset of the research stage, involved a consideration of the effect that perceptions of reality, knowledge and truth have on a researcher's philosophy of research. Due to an increased awareness of the impact that these beliefs have on my own philosophy of research, I became interested in how similar beliefs might impact the personal philosophies and pedagogies of teachers. I chose to explore the beliefs and practices of teachers at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA), the school environment in which I work. The study is positioned within the constructivist-interpretive research paradigm. It therefore allows for the emergence of a holistic and contextualized understanding of teachers' beliefs and practices. In choosing this approach, I hoped to explore whether a consideration of teachers' beliefs could play a role in the design of future professional development opportunities at ISA.

The research study involved the generation of teacher profiles for each of three respondents, who are all experienced international school teachers. The respondents teach Science, English Literature, and Spanish to middle year students at ISA, which is a private and well-established IB school that offers all three IB programs through English to the children of expatriates as well as to local Dutch children. Within this teaching environment curricula and assessment are concept and process oriented, and teachers are encouraged to incorporate constructivist approaches into their personal pedagogies.

The generation and comparison of the teacher profiles helped to uncover the respondents' beliefs and practices in a comprehensive way. Each teacher was observed on several occasions and these observations were followed by lengthy conversations and semi-structured interviews that occurred over an extended period of time. During the follow-up discussions, teachers' ideas and preferences were aligned with contemporary literature that explores possible links between teachers' ontological beliefs, their epistemological beliefs and their teaching practices.

The findings of the research indicate that the blends of constructivism preferred by individual teachers mesh well with their ontological beliefs and their epistemological beliefs. The universal concepts they were drawn to, their impressions of the nature of learners, and their view of the learning capacity of groups all seem to connect with their beliefs. The findings suggest that there is a need to take teachers' ontological and epistemological views into account when considering and designing professional development opportunities. These findings contribute to areas of research that explore the impact of teachers' ontological and epistemological beliefs on teaching practice. They also provide direction for further discussion, exploration and research.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Gates, P.
Keywords: Middle school teachers, attitudes, international baccalaureate
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 27681
Depositing User: Airey, Ms Valerie
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2014 10:05
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 04:33

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