Rethinking Epistemic Virtue. A Practical Example from the Leiden Pre-University Excellence Program Paper Presentation
Author(s): Jan Sleutels, (Leiden University, The Netherlands), Annebeth Simonsz (Leiden University, The Netherlands).
Academic skills and attitude are commonly understood in terms of epistemic virtues pertaining to individual students, as qualities of individual cognitive performance to be cultivated by students (e.g., accuracy, logical rigour, knowledgeability, independ-ence, lucidity, critical sense). Over the past decade, however, traditional virtues seem to be losing their appeal for younger generations. To members of the Net Generation the value of qualities such as knowledgeability or independence is no longer self-evident.
We argue that changing technological landscapes call for new epistemic virtues. In the context of individual agents trying to maximize return on private cognitive capi-tal, teaching strategies for stocking up the individual made sense. The Net Genera-tion’s context is different, however: shared cognitive capital is created in a process of communication and collaboration between changing groups of agents pursuing many different interests. This calls for a recalibration of epistemic virtue, which no longer pertains primarily to individual agents, but rather to groups of collaborating agents.
We applied this theoretical perspective (‘cognitive integration’) when redesigning part of the curriculum of Leiden Pre-Uni¬versity College, a two-year excellence pro-gram for qualifying students in Dutch secondary education. The program’s final module, aimed at fostering academic attitude and enhancing reflective skills, was redesigned to step up its effectiveness. The old format focused on cultivating indi-vidual excellence and assessing individual performance. It was replaced by a system of learning activities for cultivating communication and collaboration, with students working in groups, in pairs, and individually, using a system of formative and largely autonomous assess¬ment. Moreover, students were explicitly challenged to reflect on the nature of science in a digitalizing world (‘Science 2.0’), thus enhancing their self-awareness as members of the Net Generation.