Anita Witt Mitchell; Longitudinal Study of Occupational Therapy Students’ Beliefs About Knowledge and Knowing. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(2):6902230010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.015008
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Research has demonstrated the importance of beliefs about knowledge and knowing, or epistemic and ontological cognition (EOC), to learning and achievement; however, little research has examined occupational therapy students’ EOC or determined whether occupational therapy programs promote its development. This study examined changes in EOC over 18 mo of didactic coursework in an occupational therapy program. Thirty-one students completed the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory at the beginning, middle, and end of 18 mo of didactic coursework. Results indicated no difference in ontological cognition. However, change occurred in epistemic cognition, with students demonstrating statistically significantly weaker beliefs in justification of knowledge by an omniscient authority by the end of the didactic portion of the program. Although causal inferences cannot be made from this small study of one cohort of occupational therapy students, it is possible that intensive study in the discipline of occupational therapy contributed to change in these students’ epistemic cognition.
This study suggests that changes occur in occupational therapy students’ epistemic cognition over the course of the didactic portion of an occupational therapy program. Although causal inferences cannot be made on the basis of this study, it seems reasonable to conclude that the occupational therapy program contributed to this change.
This study did not consider the relationship between academic achievement and EOC; however, it seems logical that courses incorporating case-based problems with more than one potential solution and requiring decisions based on a synthesis of evidence could be challenging for students with a more naïve EOC position.
Exploration of students’ beliefs about knowledge and knowing could prove fruitful when attempting to remediate learning difficulties.
A better understanding of students’ EOC may assist educators in developing more effective learning experiences, improving learning outcomes, and preparing skilled evidence-based practitioners.
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