My core research interest is intelligent conversation, a kind of rule-governed dialog in which, following a finite set of scripts, in turn based on a large but finite set of epistemic forms, interlocutors take turns making moves with the implied purpose of arriving at some newly shared understanding or decision. Examples of epistemic forms include categories, narratives, systems, processes, and the theory-evidence construct. Epistemic fluency is a measure of the extent to which a person has access to the full set of epistemic forms, scripts, and moves available in the culture. As with all aspects of language, children first acquire epistemic fluency in the context of interactions with adults or older children. Eventually, intelligent conversation becomes internalized as what John Dewey called "the scientific habit of mind."
I wonder about the biological roots of the facility for intelligent conversation in humans, and how and why it manifests itself differently across individuals, groups, and cultures. I worry that opportunities for developing epistemic fluency are unequally distributed in our own culture, especially in our schools, where children often have few opportunities to engage in intelligent conversation with their teachers and other students. For this reason, I am interested in the development of systems that model intelligent conversation between and among humans and intelligent agents, including systems that afford teachers opportunities to practice engaging novice agents in intelligent conversation in specific domains, especially in science and mathematics.