Background of the study
Epistemology is the study of the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief. It analyzes the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief and justification. It also deals with the means of production of knowledge, as well as skepticism about different knowledge claims. It is essentially about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that investigates what knowledge is and how people know whether they know something (BonJour, 2002).
It addresses questions such as: What is knowledge? How do people know if they really have knowledge? What provides a justification for any knowledge that they have? For example, on what grounds are people justified in believing that electrons have negative charge or that an accused robber is guilty? Are people convinced by sensory evidence, by testimonial evidence, by strong intuitions, or by some other means? Epistemologists, of course, have developed many ideas about how to answer questions such as these.
In recent years, psychologists have become interested in whether people other than philosophers have ideas about what knowledge is and how knowledge is justified. In other words, psychologists have wondered if people have beliefs about epistemological questions (called epistemological beliefs or personal epistemological beliefs) and whether these beliefs affect in any way their learning or reasoning.
While there has been a general interest in the relationship between belief structures and learning, in the field of teacher development there has also been a similar interest. Specifically, there has been a change of research interest in teacher education from studying teachers' classroom behavior and teaching skills to examining teachers' thinking and beliefs. Such a shift is based on the assumption that a need for increased understanding of teachers' decision making and practice in the classroom. Although it is a difficult task to study teachers' beliefs, it is likely to be a rewarding area of research if concepts of specific beliefs are carefully operationalized, appropriate methodology chosen, and designs thoughtfully constructed (Pajares, 1992). (Pintrich 1990) has suggested that beliefs will ultimately prove the most valuable psychological construct to teacher education. In fact, it has been recognized that many of the obstacles towards educational reform have their basis in the existing beliefs of teachers because such beliefs may determine the disposition of teachers towards a particular change.
Research in teacher education has indicated that student teachers bring with them prior knowledge and ideas (forming their initial beliefs) which filter knowledge acquisition in teacher education programs offered in colleges and universities (e.g. Calderhead & Robson, 1991; Tilleman, 1995). Subsequently, to understand more closely how teachers can be developed and how new changes in educational practice can be introduced, it is important to understand teachers' belief structures.
Out of all the beliefs held by teachers, the beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning, known collectively as epistemological beliefs, appear to be those which may influence teachers' choice and decisions in the classroom. It is likely that the methods a teacher uses, how the teacher manages the class, what to focus in learning and so on are all likely to be influenced by the beliefs the teachers holds about knowledge and its acquisition. It is likely to be helpful to teacher educators in constructing teacher education programs and in interacting with students if they have knowledge of their students' epistemological beliefs. Gender of participants may have influence on the students’ academic performance; this study will use gender as moderator variable.
Gender difference in achievement has been examined for some time resulting in a substantial body of literature (Jack and Johannes, 2001). The importance of examining instructional strategy in relation to gender is based primarily on the sociocultural differences between girls and boys (Abra, 1991). Traditionally, girls in our society have been encouraged to conform, whereas boys are expected to be active and dominant risk-takers. Spencer (2004) also affirms that the gametes of girls are often highly structured requiring turn taking and rules. Thus, social expectations and conformity pressures may create cultural blocks to girls. Fabunmi (2004) in a study discovered that gender composition has a significant relationship with student's academic performance and that gender composition has a significant influence on tertiary school students' academic performance. Beside this, inconsistent findings have been discovered on gender difference and academic achievement (Olowe, 2010). There is therefore the need to find out if gender has effect on students’ academic achievement.
Teaching Practice is an important stage in pre-service teachers' teaching lives, for it gives them a good opportunity to practice all what they have learned from the academic, educational and general cultural courses, and they directly face students and live in the school environment with all its internal and external elements. Weinstein  has pointed out that teaching practice is the period in which the real levels of the pre-service teachers’ basic skills are determined, which will enable them to be successful teachers in their future. Ponte and Brunheira's  has pointed out that teaching practice will lead to a constructive change in the pre-service teachers towards teaching process because the experiences through which they pass, and the activities that they practice will help them form general perspective concerning teachers' job and responsibilities.
To sum it up, the basic tasks of teaching practice can be summarized into main points. First, it offers a good opportunity to train the pre-service teachers' basic skills and use them in a right way inside the classroom. Second, accommodation with internal and external circumstances concerning teaching and learning process is one of the important points. Moreover, forming positive attitude towards teaching job and developing it are ones of teaching practice aims and it also help the pre-service teachers tame some of their personality problems.
Statement of problem
There has been lot of argument as regards the undergraduate epistemological belief and gender in the field of teaching practice. The question is, is there any correlation between epistemological belief and undergraduate teachers performance? Gender has a phenomenon in the corridor of education, to what extent has it influence the pre service teachers’ achievement?
Purpose of the study
The intent of this study is to examine the;
• Effect of epistemology belief on pre service teachers achievement
• Effect of gender on the pre service teacher achievement
• The relationship between epistemological belief and gender as regard pre service teacher’s achievement
• How pre service teachers’ epistemological belief and gender relate to the teaching method they adopt in Ondo State
The project work comprises of two research question which are as follow;
- What is the combine influence of epistemological beliefs and gender on preservice teachers’ achievement teaching practice programme?
- What is the relative influence of epistemological belief and gender on the preservice teachers‘ academic achievement in teaching practice programme?
Significance of the study
This study is to know the correlation between epistemological belief, gender and the teachers’ achievement particularly the pre service teachers. The project would also look into the effect of epistemological belief and gender on the method of teaching adopted by the student teacher and how this has affect pre service teacher achievement taking Ondo State as a case study. This project would help in knowing the right method of thinking.
Scope / Delimitation
The study will cover selected tertiary institution in Ondo State, the project work would not go beyond Ondo State. The project is carried out within the purview of epistemological belief and gender as predictor for pre service teachers’ achievement. Hence, the result will be applicable elsewhere outside the study area as long as it is within the academic environment.
Definition of terms
Epistemology: Epistemology is the study of the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief. It analyzes the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief and justification.
Epistemological belief: Epistemological beliefs express the beliefs on the
nature of knowledge and gaining knowledge (learning).
Gender: The fact of being either a male or female.
Pre service teachers: Undergraduate student of education.
Achievement: Achievement connotes final accomplishment of something noteworthy, after much effort and often in spite of obstacles and discouragements.
Justification of Knowledge: The beliefs about how individuals justify knowledge. At lower levels, the individuals use the authority or observation rather than experiments, data, and rules of inquiry (at higher level) to justify knowledge (Hofer, 2000).
Certainty of Knowledge: The beliefs about Certainty of Knowledge range from a belief in a right answer to more than one answer to complex problems (Conley et al., 2004).