What do first-year students think knowledge is?

Dr. Romin Tafarodi, Associate Professor

Mentor: Dr. Romin Tafarodi

Associate Professor


Project Description

The growth of the service sector and information economy over the past half-century has led to a pragmatic focus on knowledge as occupational asset. How is this reflected in our folk understanding of knowledge itself? To explore 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. The semi-structured interview will draw upon long-standing philosophical distinctions in asking: 1) what students 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 valuable for their future; 5) how they hope to apply knowledge in their private and professional lives; and 6) the social implications of claiming and communicating knowledge. The student(s) recruited to work 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 in the early twenty-first century. A richer understanding in this area will help us anticipate students’ academic expectations, aspirations, and frustrations, and inform how we teach 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 mentoring is especially high in a time of increasing class sizes, less opportunity for in-person interaction and one-on-one dialogue with students, and structural and cultural challenges to academic community-building. Mentoring in my lab would occur through regular face-to-face or virtual meetings with me and the graduate and undergraduate students working in my lab. Together, we would provide SROP 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 academic community. 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 953