Community of Inquiry and the Intersection of Epistemology and Pedagogy : A Grounded Theory Analysis

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


College of Education and Human Services


Educational Foundations

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Rebecca Goldstein

Committee Member

David Kennedy

Committee Member

Helenrose Fives


This study was an investigation into the epistemological belief structures of one teacher and students within the context of the practice of a community of philosophical inquiry. It was designed to answer the questions of (a) what is the relationship between one teacher's epistemological beliefs and his/her pedagogical practices and (b) what role does engaging in community of philosophical inquiry and critical thinking play, if any, in the epistemological beliefs of students themselves? To answer these questions, I conducted a qualitative study, employing a modified grounded theory approach, of one fifth grade classroom, comprised of twenty six students, in which community of inquiry was implemented over the course of a twelve-week period and facilitated by a trained community of inquiry practitioner. I conducted secondary analysis of previously collected data, drawn from a research study sponsored by the National Academy of Education (NAE) and directed by Dr. Alina Reznitskaya at Montclair State University in collaboration with the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children. The data used from the context of this larger research study for the purposes of my analysis were (a) twelve videotaped classroom discussions from one fifth grade classroom in which community of inquiry and Philosophy for Children was implemented, (b) an interview with the community of inquiry facilitator who led these sessions regarding his epistemological and pedagogical beliefs, (c) follow-up student interviews with ten students regarding reasoning skills and epistemological certainty. Some key findings from this study were that engaging in community of inquiry practice led to the successful utilization of critical thinking skills by the students as they manifested in classroom discussions. The study also found a consistency between this one facilitator's epistemological and pedagogical beliefs as reported in the facilitator interview and his actual classroom practices as manifested in the classroom discussions. Despite successful engagement in community of inquiry practice, analysis of the follow-up student interviews did not reveal definite conclusions regarding students' epistemological beliefs. One plausible explanation for this is the inability to locate my findings within the predominant stage theory models of epistemological beliefs and development. However, despite the limitations of this study, my findings suggest the future pedagogical importance of overtly connecting the development of critical thinking skills to students' epistemological beliefs in the context of community of inquiry practice. This study also revealed that engagement in community of inquiry practice, as led by a trained facilitator, does promote the development of students' critical thinking skills.


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