How do first-year undergraduate students understand “knowledge”?

Mentor: Dr. Romin Tafarodi

Dr. Romin Tafarodi

Project Description

The rapid growth and development of the service sector over the past half-century has led to the increased pragmatizing of knowledge as occupational asset. How is this reflected in our understanding of knowledge itself? To examine how university students at the University of Toronto define, identify, pursue, and hope to apply knowledge in their lives, we will interview a sample of first-year undergraduates on the topic. The semi-structured interview will draw upon long-standing philosophical distinctions in asking students: 1) what they believe knowledge consists of; 2) how it differs from mere belief; 3) how claims to knowledge are justified; 4) how knowing that differs from knowing how and which kind of knowledge students see as most significant for their future; 5) how they hope to use knowledge in their private and professional lives; and 6) the social implications of claiming and communicating knowledge. The student(s) working on this study will be trained in interview methods, transcription, and coding and interpretation (structural, thematic, etc.) using qualitative data analysis software. They will be responsible for recruiting participants electronically, conducting virtual interviews, converting audio to textual data, and coding and interpreting the data. The results of the study will help us understand how first-year university students conceive of knowledge and its significance at the beginning of the third decade of the twenty-first century. More accurate understanding in this area will help us anticipate students’ academic expectations, aspirations, and frustrations, potentially informing how we teach, design our courses, and structure our programs of study.

Mentorship Statement

Mentoring allows for a more practical, collaborative, interactive, and individually tailored approach to teaching. The value of such teaching is enhanced in the present context of increasing class sizes, structural and cultural challenges to community-building, and diminished opportunities for one-on-one time with students. Mentoring in my lab would occur through regular face-to-face or virtual meetings with me, as well as with the graduate and undergraduate students working in my lab. Together, we would provide the student(s) with training in interviewing, transcription, and the coding and interpretation of qualitative data. I was motivated to participate in this program because of my commitment to diversity and inclusion within our community of practice. Introducing a greater range of voices and sensibilities into our science will benefit not only the quality of our work, but also the participatory health of our democratic society.

Project ID 487