Kirkman, John Robert (2014)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
This study explores how science and history trainee teachers, who have different amounts of higher education in science, respond to news reports about science. In semi-structured interviews, using researcher and reader selected articles, readers were asked about the likelihood of veracity of knowledge claims and also their reactions to what they read.
The thesis reports a range of heuristics which served to increase, or decrease, epistemic distance and so make the reader more or less willing to accept scientific claims as true. The quality of participants’ responses to news stories was also examined by using concepts maps to identify the extent to which ideas were interconnected. Concept maps were found to have a networked structures for both groups of participants, however, there was limited evidence for participant use of ‘ideas about interconnectedness’, thus there was limited evidence of epistemic thinking. The veracity of news stories is largely indeterminate for the non-expert reader given the limited information contained in the story and so readers’ multiple understandings are emphasised. Overall, there was not much difference between the two groups of readers.
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