About - Epistemic Insight - Canterbury Christ Church University

“How do we know what’s true?” “How do we know what’s real?” “Can we say whether humans are special or just biological beings that happen to be roaming around on a planet for a while?” Can a robot be a good friend?”

The Epistemic Insight Initiative is a national research and curriculum innovation strategy led by the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. Within the ‘EI’ Initiative, teachers, student teachers  and tutors are collaborating on ground-breaking research to design and test strategies to engage school students in more dialogue about Big Questions.

To engage wisely with big questions like whether robots can think for themselves and why life exists – children need to build their understanding of the strengths and limitations of disciplines like science, maths and the arts. At the same time, teachers need to ways to bridge curriculum boundaries and to encourage enquiries that involve science and technology and can sometimes be religiously sensitive.

“The Epistemic Insight Initiative gets to the heart of some key and critical issues in curriculum and the learning experiences of children in the compulsory school sector", explains William Stow,  Assistant Dean, Faculty of Education. 

"England experiences a highly fragmented national curricula across the 5-18 age range. This, combined with the lack of connectivity in the design of the separate subject curriculum statements, can lead to a learning experience for pupils in which teachers are unable to make meaningful connections between key concepts and knowledge across curriculum disciplines.

"The scale of our engagement with Epistemic Insight, both in terms of the numbers of teacher educators (both in University and in school) and the number of beginner teachers who will be involved, can create a step change in understanding about these issues. This, combined with Professor Billingsley’s strong existing contacts into policy debate, creates a groundswell of voices that will influence curriculum design."  

A recent event at Christ Church highlighted Big Questions in action (View BBC Breakfast news clip). More than 400 school children, trainee teachers and teachers took on puzzles like:  Can a robot ever truly have a sense of curiosity? Will there be a robot that falls in love? Why does the universe exist and can genetic engineering make better people?

Dr Lynette Turner, Dean of Education at Christ Church, said: “This initiative highlights precisely the type of innovative work that the Faculty of Education at Christ Church University supports and develops. The Big Questions Day demonstrates our commitment to pushing boundaries in our training of future teachers and in our engagement with our partner schools who experience, first hand, not only the benefits of cutting-edge research but are able to contribute to it too."

The £1.5 M initiative has grants from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, the Royal Academy of Engineering, The National Collaborative Outreach Programme and All Saints Education Trust and the direct support of the University’s trainee teachers. 

Eight Higher Education institutions, led by Canterbury Christ Church University, are working together to progress the research. The findings will be used to help create a curriculum framework for primary and secondary schools, designed to enable young people to think more deeply and critically about Big Questions and the nature of knowledge across a wide range of subjects.


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Last edited: 10/03/2020 11:22:00