Advancing group epistemic practices in the resolution of interdisciplinary societal dilemmas
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The present paper inquires whether a meticulous program designed to resolve Interdisciplinary Societal Dilemmas through dialogic argumentation advances epistemic practices. To delineate how epistemic practices are manifested in classroom discussions, we adopted the Actor-Network Theory (ANT), which explores the interactions and agencies of human and non-human actors. ANT analyses uncover the power these actors exert on each other and help recognize the networks that these actors create or dissolve. They also delineate how epistemic practices emerge and are shaped in these networks. We identified four epistemic practices in the discussions: (1) taking a reasoned position, (2) integrating knowledge from different disciplines, (3) weighing pros and cons before taking a complex position, and (4) role-playing in a democratic game. We show that the type of discourse developed in the program was mostly dialogic argumentation. In addition, we demonstrate how teachers often inhibit these advancements. Indeed, in the case of integrating knowledge from different disciplines, teachers’ role is central, but the emerged actors’ network is often non-dialogic. Moreover, we show how non-human actors shape the interactions in networks as well as the formation of knowledge and agency. We conclude that: (a) the design of activities for resolving interdisciplinary societal dilemmas provides many opportunities for advancing epistemic practices, (b) these practices are mostly advanced through dialogic argumentation, but (c) more efforts should be invested in affording interdisciplinary argumentation.
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