The meaning of learning and knowing

E.J. van Rossum, R.N. Hamer

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 2 (Research NOT UU / Graduation UU)


The Meaning of Learning and Knowing contains three parts. In part 1 the authors describe their own six-stage developmental model of linked learning and teaching conceptions. This model is based on the written essays of over 600 students of higher education. The authors compare their model to five well known epistemological models (Ways of knowing of Baxter Magolda and Belenky et al., Orders of consciousness of Kegan, Epistemological theories of Kuhn and the scheme of intellectual development of Perry). In addition, the dimensions of the learning and teaching conceptions model are compared to more quantitative approaches to epistemology, referring to the EBQ of Schommer-Aikins, the ILS of Vermunt and Hofer’s personal theories. Through this the authors underpin their proposition that the model of learning and teaching conceptions provides a window onto a broader and more fundamental intellectual development that is of interest to society as well as to higher education. Finally, the authors link the empirically supported developmental epistemological model through possible developmental dynamics to a second tier of intellectual growth. Where the first five stages focus on learning to know, a second tier of five stages would seem to focus on learning to be. A second central proposition concerns the empirical evidence that teachers are none other than students grown up, implying that the developmental models developed within student thinking are equally valid for teacher thinking. The second part contains the empirical studies regarding the activating curriculum of the Hotelschool The Hague: Enterprising Learning. Longitudinal data of 224 students who experienced Enterprising Learning as well as the essays of 43 teachers of the Hotelschool who taught within this curriculum are the basis for an evaluation indicating that Enterprising Learning is more successful in facilitating epistemological growth than a traditional curriculum. In this section the authors explore in depth all the developments and in a separate section describe subtle in-category developments as well. The teacher data provided insight into teachers’ conceptions of learning and good teaching. The authors introduce two distinct types of destructive friction in education: disenchantment and nostalgia. In addition, while Enterprising Learning was more successful than the traditional curriculum, most of the students developed no more than one stage in four years and by far the majority remained less sophisticated than required in higher education. The distribution of the teachers’ learning conceptions found could provide a possible explanation for this relative lack of development, implying that to truly implement a developmental curriculum puts conditions on the epistemological sophistication of the teaching staff. In part 3 the consequences of student and teacher epistemological development on teaching and learning in higher education are discussed. Firstly, a case is made regarding the minimal epistemological sophistication that is necessary for higher education to attain its own espoused goal. Secondly, some avenues are explored regarding staff development: educating our educators. In the final chapter the main research questions are recapped, a number of more generic conclusions are drawn regarding the nature of the development and new avenues of research are proposed.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Vermunt, J.D.H.M., Primary supervisor
Award date26 May 2010
Place of PublicationRotterdam/Boston/Taipei
Print ISBNs978-94-6091-250-4
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2010

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