12 February 2010


Framing is a construct developed in anthropology and linguistics to describe how an individual or group forms a sense of "what is it that's going on here?". We frame an event, utterance, or situation by interpreting it based on previous experience. E.g. when we see someone running like a madman on the street, we may interpret that as a fugitive on the run, and may expect someone else is chasing after him. Students may look at an exam question and quickly associate the same question with a previous exercise problem she has seen before.

Epistemological framing refers to the way learners form a sense of what is taking place with respect to knowledge, e.g. what past experience or knowledge is relevant to complete an assignment. Social framing refers to the way people form a sense of what to expect of each other, and of themselves in a social setting, e.g. what students expect from each other in a group project. Social framing can be observed through people's behaviors. Epistemological framing can be deduced through student learning assessments and their problem solving skills.

Based on the idea of social and epistemological framing, Scherr and Hammer (2009) studied how student interact with each other in physics tutorials. They coded student behaviors based on whether they work alone, discuss with each other, discuss with the TA, or just social, and correlate with student thinking, and their epistemological framing. They show that the behavioral cluster are evidence of student epistemologies. In particular, sitting up, speaking clearly, and gesturing frequently are evidence of novel reasoning and mutually constructed understanding.


Scherr, R. and Hammer, D. (2009). Student Behavior and Epistemological Framing: Examples From Collaborative Active-Learning Activities in Physics. Cognition and Instruction, 27(2), pp 147 - 174.

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