Category Archives: papers

Practical epistemic cognition in a design project—Engineering students developing epistemic fluency

Over the last year, a number of papers have been published that directly or indirectly draw upon and extend the idea of epistemic fluency. We are planning to introduce at least some of them on our website. If you have published a paper that speaks to the idea of epistemic fluency and would like to see it shared on our website, please email us.


The first paper on our list is: Bernhard, J., A. Carstensen, J. Davidsen, and T. Ryberg. “Practical Epistemic Cognition in a Design Project–Engineering Students Developing Epistemic Fluency.” IEEE Transactions on Education  (2019): 1-10. (An open-access pre-print is available on this website).

The paper investigates the development of students’ epistemic fluency in situ by tracing, what could be called, students’ epistemic resourcefulness in action using videographic methods. Among other things this paper presents an insightful comparison of some key differences between the scientific practices and engineering practices (pp. 2-3). It also offers a useful approach for tracing and visually presenting the development of epistemic fluency in students’ design teams (see p. 4). The paper ends with a juxtaposition of our semiotic approach for studying epistemic fluency discussed in Chapter 11 (p. 334-337) with a model of knowledge development based on Owen (2007) which sees science primarily as an analytic-symbolic practice, while design  as a synthetic real world practice. The authors conclude that, in practice, engineering design requires engaging in a much broader array of epistemic activities:

“Seeing development in terms of developing “actionable knowledge” as well as “knowledgeable action”  requires the development of epistemic fluency. Epistemic fluency implies the weaving together of conceptual, physical, epistemological and symbolic spaces to develop an epistemic space.” (p. 8).

Abstract (quoted from the paper)

Contribution: This paper reports engineering students’ practical epistemic cognition by studying their interactional work in situ. Studying “epistemologies in action'” the study breaks away from mainstream approaches that describe this in terms of beliefs or of stage theories.

Background: In epistemology, knowledge is traditionally seen as “justified true belief,” neglecting knowledge related to action. Interest has increased in studying the epistemologies people use in situated action, and their development of epistemic fluency. How appropriate such approaches are in engineering and design education need further investigation.

Research Questions: 1) How do students in the context of a design project use epistemic tools in their interactional work? and 2) What are the implications of the findings in terms of how students’ cognitive and epistemological development could be conceptualized?

Methodology: A collaborative group of six students were video recorded on the 14th day of a fifth-semester design project, as they were preparing for a formal critique session. The entire, almost 6 h, session was recorded by four video cameras mounted in the design studio, with an additional fifth body-mounted camera. The video data collected was analyzed using video ethnographic, conversation analysis, and embodied interaction analysis methods.

Findings: The results show that the students use a wealth of bodily material resources as an integral and seamless part of their interactions as epistemic tools, in their joint production of understanding and imagining. The analysis also suggests that students’ epistemological and cognitive development, individually and as a group, should be understood in terms of developing “epistemic fluency.”


L. Markauskaite and P. Goodyear, Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education: Innovation, Knowledgeable Action and Actionable Knowledge. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2017.

C. Owen, Design thinking: Notes on its nature and use, Design Res. Quart., vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 16–27, 2007.



Understanding the nature and impact of wicked problems and unpredictable futures on work and practice

Cover Challenging Future Practice PossibilitiesThis is one more recent chapter that extends our work on epistemic fluency: Goodyear, P., & Markauskaite, L. (2019). The impact on practice of wicked problems and unpredictable futures. In J. Higgs, S. Cork, & D. Horsfall (Eds.), Challenging future practice possibilities (pp. 41-52). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Brill Sense.  You may have access to a digital copy of this chapter via your institutional subscription. But if you don’t have access and you are interested, please email us. We will be happy to send you a copy of the pre-print (for the sole purpose of your private use of course). The extracts below should give you an idea of what this chapter is about. Note, they are from the pre-print. Check accuracy in the published version if you will quote.


“Education faces a conundrum. On the one hand, imagined futures are becoming more diverse, fluid and contested. On the other, knowledge and learning are widely believed to be key to survival, success and sustainability. < . . . > There is a broad consensus that it cannot stay the same (Collins, 2017). But in many countries, there is deep disquiet about relations between current education and the futures of those it is meant to serve. Indeed, one sometimes senses a paralysis, brought about by conflicting ideologies as much as by the intrinsic difficulties of making sense of an uncertain, complex world.”

< . . . >

“In this chapter, we aim to offer something more positive. We suggest that there are tools that people can learn to use to deal with complex ‘wicked’ problems. These tools can be used by young and old, but are especially relevant to those who are invested in a problematic situation – those with ‘skin in the game’. These ways of dealing with wicked problems are deeply social. They do not start from an assumption that the best problem solvers are lone wolves: creative, entrepreneurial market-disruptors, motivated by personal profit. Quite the reverse. In our view, tools for working on wicked problems are embodiments of shared ‘moral know-how’, sharpened for the work of collaborative and co-operative future-making.

The rapid and accelerating pace of technological development has had an odd effect on ways we imagine the future. We see it as unknowable and full of risks for which we should prepare, without really knowing what to prepare for: as if the explosion of technological possibilities creates a blinding glare. It need not be so. Technological profusion should cause us to ask a different kind of question: not ‘what will the future world be like, and require of us?’ but ‘what kind of future world do we want to make?’. The genre changes from prediction to design; from reading tea leaves to taking action.”

Epistemic resourcefulness and the development of evaluative judgement


Developing Evaluative Judgement in Higher Education: Assessment for Knowing and Producing Quality Work, 1st Edition (Paperback) book coverWe wrote several new papers elaborating the idea of epistemic fluency. One of them is this chapter: Goodyear, P., & Markauskaite, L. (2018). Epistemic resourcefulness and the development of evaluative judgement. In D. Boud, R. Ajjawi, P. Dawson, & J. Tai (Eds.), Developing evaluative judgement in higher education: Assessment for knowing and producing quality work (pp. 28-38). London: Routledge.


“This chapter examines the development of evaluative judgement from a professional education perspective, with a focus on the abilities students need to deal with problems that are both complex and novel. Professional work regularly entails engaging in knowledgeable action in previously unencountered situations and formulating impromptu methods for making judgements about the adequacy of one’s actions. From this perspective, evaluative judgement is an epistemic (knowledge-creating) activity. We show how developing evaluative judgement can be understood as learning to play a range of epistemic games, and how epistemic resourcefulness enables one to frame complex judgements in principled ways.”

Extended overview

“Our chapter is primarily a contribution to the task of theorising evaluative judgement. While we believe that this has practical educational payoffs, which we outline in the final section of the chapter, we are also motivated by a curiosity about the kinds of work and capabilities that are involved in evaluative judgement – within and for professional action. In a nutshell, we argue in this chapter that evaluative judgement can be seen as an epistemic capability, useful in assessing one’s ability to engage in knowledgeable action in specific, dynamically changing situations. We draw on some of our recent empirical and theoretical research to show how a broad range of examples of professional knowledge work can be categorised within a taxonomy of epistemic games. The ability to recognise and participate in these games is a manifestation of epistemic fluency and we can think of the corresponding personal capabilities in terms of epistemic resourcefulness. We illustrate this approach to conceptualising evaluative judgement and its development, with a discussion of one particularly relevant kind of professional epistemic game: the evaluation game. From this base, we develop an argument about the need for evaluative judgement to be considered from a generative perspective. In rapidly changing and uncertain times, professionals cannot get by with methods and standards for assessing worth or quality that are carved in stone. Epistemic resourcefulness enables people to formulate novel, principled, approaches to the making of evaluative judgements.”

Designing productive assessment tasks


Our paper “Preparing students for the workplace through designing productive assessment tasks: An actionable knowledge perspective” presented at HERDSA 2017 has been now published. Free download is here.

Full reference: Markauskaite, L. & Goodyear, P. (2017). Preparing students for the workplace through designing productive assessment tasks: An actionable knowledge perspective. In R.G. Walker & S.B. Bedford (Eds.), Research and Development in Higher Education: Curriculum Transformation, 40 (pp. 198–208). Sydney, Australia, 27–30 June 2017.



‘Work ready’, ‘work knowledgeable’ and ‘work capable’: Preparing students for the workplace through designing productive assessment tasks

We will be presenting our paper that discusses various designs of tasks for assessing “workplace readiness” on the 27th of June, at the  HERDSA 2017 Conference. If you will be attending the conference and interested, check the program and come to the session. The abstract is below. We will post our slides and link to the full paper after the conference.

Preparing students for the workplace through designing productive assessment tasks: An actionable knowledge perspective

Lina Markauskaite and Peter Goodyear


Preparing students for the workplace and assessing their readiness are often major challenges for university teachers. What kinds of concrete tasks help students develop professional capacities needed for situated knowledgeable action in a broad range of possible future workplace settings?

Our research examined assessment tasks that university teachers set for students in courses that were preparing them for work placements in five professions: nursing, pharmacy, teaching, social work, and school counselling. We combined ‘actionable knowledge’ and ‘objectual practice’ perspectives and investigated what students were asked to do, what they were expected to learn and how. Specifically, we analysed the nature of the objects that teachers selected for assessment tasks and the nature of the concrete artefacts that students were asked to produce.

Our results show some fundamental differences in teachers’ choices of objects. They ranged from basic and very specific aspects of professional work to some of the hardest and most broad-ranging challenges in the profession. The tasks also required students to engage in the production of a wide range of artefacts. We classified these as ‘cultural artefacts’, ‘conceptual artefacts’ and ‘epistemic artefacts’.

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Our discussion draws parallels between these three kinds of artefacts and the notions of ‘work ready’, ‘work knowledgeable’ and ‘work-capable’ graduates, respectively. We argue that teachers, through task designs, shape ways in which students learn to link action (skill) with meaning (knowledge). Our findings raise some important questions about the kinds of authentic tasks that help prepare work-capable graduates for future learning.