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Title:The effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension
Author(s):Schommer, Marlene Ann
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):West, Charles K.
Department / Program:Education
Discipline:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Education, Educational Psychology
Education, Reading
Psychology, Developmental
Abstract:In the last two decades educators and researchers have evolved the idea that beliefs about the nature of knowledge, or epistemological beliefs, may provide a partial explanation for why some students fail to integrate knowledge (Anderson & Pearson, 1984b), have inflexible criteria for comprehension monitoring (Yussen, 1985), or oversimplify information (Spiro, Vispoel, Schmitz, Samarapungavan, & Boerger, 1987). The purpose of this research was to these ideas.
The overall question to be addressed by this research is "Do students' epistemological beliefs affect their comprehension?" A questionnaire designed to identify epistemological beliefs was administered to 266 undergraduates. Verbal ability, prior knowledge and demographic characteristics were also assessed. Then, a group of these students ($N$ = 86) read a passage on a topic in either psychology or nutrition. Next, students were asked to imagine that they were the author of the passage and to write a concluding paragraph. Then, they assessed their understanding of the passage. Finally, a multiple choice test was administered to test specific passage information.
Factor analysis of the questionnaire resulted in four factors named as follows: (I) The Ability to Learn is Innate, (II) Knowledge is Discrete and Unambiguous, (III) Learning is Quick or Not-At-All, and (IV) Knowledge is Certain. Written conclusions were coded for adequate reflection of complexity and uncertainty. The effect of epistemological beliefs on the nature of conclusions drawn was tested by first regressing comprehension measures on verbal ability, prior knowledge, and sex; and then, allowing epistemological factors to compete for entry.
Epistemological factors predicted interpretation, comprehension, and comprehension assessment. The more students believe Learning is Quick or Not-At-All, the more likely they are to write oversimplified conclusions. The more students believe Knowledge is Certain, the more likely they will interpret inconclusive information as certain. The more students believe Learning is Quick or Not-At-All, the more likely they are to perform poorly on typical comprehension measures and inaccurately assess their comprehension.
These results suggest that students' epistemological beliefs can be described as a complex system that affects comprehension. These effects are generalizable across two domains and are evidenced beyond the effects of factors traditionally known to influence comprehension.
Issue Date:1989
Type:Text
Language:English
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/20126
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Schommer, Marlene Ann
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI8924938
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI8924938


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