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Epistemology is an area of philosophy studying the theory of knowledge and justified belief. Epistemology is concerned with questions like:1)
Epistemology has been primarily concerned with declarative or propositional knowledge, and not with other forms of knowledge like procedural or ability knowledge.3)
When talking about knowledge or that someone knows something, usually this knowledge has two necessary and sufficient requirements:4)
This means that in order to consider something an element of our knowledge, it has to be truth and its “owner” must believe in it. If we would omit the first condition, for example, if a friend of yours told you that 2+2 equals 5, you probably wouldn't consider this to be a representation of a different knowledge. You would say that he is wrong or that he does not know to perform the operation of addition of 2 and 2, although he believes he does. Alternatively, if a friend of yours told you he knew an answer to a quiz question but still suggested another answer or no answer at all when prompted, you still probably wouldn't believe that he really knew the right answer.5)
A third condition is in some literature added to the two above:6)
Unless the correctness of the knowledge and the belief is somehow justified, it might just be a matter of luck.
These three prerequisites form one of the various definitions of knowledge.
Still, when speaking strictly in context of epistemology, defining knowledge is difficult due to the problem of the criterion:
Another criticism of the justified-true-belief view of knowledge was written by Edmund Gettier9) demonstrating how even a justified true belief can be a matter of luck or circumstances and not knowledge (for example someone forming a true justified belief about what time it is by looking at clock that doesn't work any more but just happens to be showing the right time).10)
The concept of knowledge is subjected to a number of other issues like:11)
Not to elaborate further on epistemological dilemmas and to return to the area of assessment, e-assessment and potential of computers in assessment, we will now set a more practical definition of knowledge in context of mentioned topic starting from the justified, true belief definition.
The second change we introduce to the starting definition, also suggested by other authors14), is to replace justified with certain (although others suggest only adding certainty15)). We suggest that certainty comes as the result of the strength of justification one can present to himself. Still, the problem with certainty is similar to the one with justification:
This leads us to our definition of knowledge we will use in context of knowledge assessments and e-assessments: knowledge is a
Another important concept to be introduced here is the usable knowledge, which
|Criterion of knowledge:|
|Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite.|
|Student's belief that malaria is a disease caused by bacterial or viral infection.||Student's belief that malaria is a disease caused by a parasite.|
|Certain of correctness||Uncertain of correctness||Certain of correctness|
|Usable belief||Unusable belief||Usable belief|
|Student knowledge state:|
|Misinformed||Uninformed||Partly informed||Well informed|
Adapted from 18). The table can be read top-down or bottom up.
For example, a well informed student has a correct belief that malaria is caused by a parasite. He is certain of this fact since, he remembers he read it in a book or heard it from the teacher. His certainty is making this belief usable meaning he will choose that answer if questioned or will calm antibiotics have no effects on treating malaria.
An uninformed student, on the other hand is uncertain on what is causing malaria and has therefore unusable belief. His uncertainty may therefore result in giving a false answer, the right answer if he is lucky, or prevent him from dealing with more complex problems involving this information.