What is epistemology?
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy dedicated to the study of the nature, origin and limits of human knowledge. One of the queries of Epistemology, for example, is to find a reliable distinction between justified belief and opinion. Throughout more or less all of the history Western Philosophy, Epistemology has been central to many of the greatest philosophers’ thought.
Why should teachers learn about epistemology?
Given that Epistemology occupies itself with knowledge, it is not difficult to imagine why teachers could benefit from becoming familiar with this discipline. Teachers operate with knowledge in many ways, and therefore need to understand the deeper foundations for it. By studying Epistemology, one may reflect on various topics with clear practical implications. Here are some examples:
1. What is the purpose of knowledge? How does this purpose differ among individuals and collectives, and how should education take this into account?
2. How does the learning process work, and how do people most effectively interiorise new knowledge? How can we ensure and measure the students’ understanding of a topic?
3. How much can we know, and what is the value of knowledge, in times when information is easily retrievable online? What is and isn’t worth learning, and how can we discuss this with our students?
4. How can we measure and achieve validity of knowledge? Is there such a thing?
5. How can we recognise justified beliefs, and argue their validity?
6. What is the neuroscience of knowledge formation, and how does the age and brain development of the students influence their learning process?
7. What is the History of human knowledge, and what dynamics and ideas led us to our current understanding of reality and of ourselves in it?
Reflecting on the nature of knowledge and diving deep into our role as teachers is at the core of alternative education. The educational system is a fundamental element of every well-functioning society. It allows us to pass on knowledge, values and traditions. It also helps us to raise critical, independent and creative humans who will be able to take charge of their own lives and be active and intentional agents over their own reality. For these reasons, the quality of our educational institutions is of critical importance, and teachers must be versatile, competent personalities, prepared to engage in constant reflections on such deep, demanding matters.