A thing of great importance that you should pay attention to in the interaction with the child is the way you deal with knowledge. This is being aware of your epistemic stance!
‘Epistemic stance’ means attitude to knowledge, or “the posture that an interaction participant takes with his turn in relation to a certain object of knowledge”. This refers to how certain you feel of the knowledge you have, and what knowledge you attribute to the other in the interaction. Do you feel insecure in talking about the natural phenomenon or are you comfortable and feel secure of your own knowledge? Do you think you need to know everything about the topic, or are you comfortable with the thought that you can wonder together with the child and find out facts together later?
Your epistemic stance has consequences for how you present your knowledge, and for how you enter into the interaction with the child. The concrete conception of what knowledge is and how it is acquired has an impact on the type of conversation that teachers consider suitable and prefer to use. But how do you clarify and reflect your own attitude towards the field of natural science education and related interactions?
Some questions to consider in order to become more aware of your own epistemic stance include:
- What is your first impulse when you think of topics in the natural sciences?
- Do you enjoy talking to children about topics in the natural sciences or do you avoid this subject area?
- How do you feel in conversations with children about topics in the natural sciences? (e.g.confident, competent, hesitant, anxious, motivated...?)
Conversations between teachers and children are an important component of high quality in preschool and primary school education processes. However, there is growing evidence that educators often do not take the opportunity to engage in talk with children; this holds especially true for talk about topics in the natural sciences. This is probably because when it comes to these subjects, many of them lack the self-confidence they find important for the quality of their teaching. Your attitude to knowledge- your epistemic stance -will influence your choice of teaching methods. The concrete conception of what knowledge is and how it is acquired has an impact on the type of teaching that teachers consider suitable and prefer to use. But how do you clarify and reflect your own attitude towards the field of natural science and related interactions?
Through your attitude you influence the activities and behaviour - and thus also the interactions -between the children and yourself. Your attitude determines whether and with what intensity you talk to children about topics in the natural sciences, how much time you spend on these interactions, the ways in which you talk to children and other choices. This matters because children tend to adapt the basic attitudes they have experienced and transfer them to their own learning motivation and strategy.
Picture a concrete situation of a topic in the natural sciences coming up in your kindergarten/primary school, based on something that has happened.
Observe and reflect on your own basic attitude towards natural sciences education in everyday life:
- What do you do? Be as specific as possible
- If you talk to children about topics in the natural sciences, how do you feel about it? (g.comfortable, motivated, uncertain, hesitant…)
- If you tend to avoid talking to children about science, why?
Try to play with your attitude:
- How does the situation change if you have a very disinterested, unmotivated and negative attitude towards natural science?
- How does the situation change if you are enthusiastic about this area?
- What impact do these attitudes have on conversations with children about topics in the natural sciences?
Being aware of your own epistemic stance is crucial in conducting conversations about topics in the natural sciences with children, and this insight should be a part of all the practical tasks we suggest in the practice section on this website as well as in real-life conversations that you have with children.
You can do more practical exercises on epistemic stance.
Vodcast about epistemic stance
In this video professor Kati Hannken-Illjes talks about epistemic stance, what it is, and why it is important to consider as you talk about natural science with children.