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Title:The nature of epistemological beliefs about learning
Author(s):Jehng, Jihn-Chang J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Johnson, Scott D.; Anderson, Richard C.
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Educational Psychology
Education, Philosophy of
Abstract:Recent research in cognitive science has shifted its emphasis to the investigation of the structures and processes of human competence and the nature of human performance as a consequence of learning and development (Glaser, 1990). This shift of focus has led researchers to investigate the changes of individuals' knowledge structures and metacognitive skills as a result of the development of individuals' domain expertise. However, in contrast to the rich learning literature on knowledge structures and metacognitive skills, the effects of domain expertise on the changes of individual belief systems have received little attention, and research in this area is still in embrionic state. The purpose of this study was to fill the gap.
In this study, the term "epistemological beliefs" was defined as an individual's disposition or supposition about the nature of knowledge and the process of learning. Five epistemological factors were identified from the literature on learning (Schommer, 1990; Feltovich, Spiro & Coulson, 1988), and a reliable, valid epistemological belief scale was developed to measure individual belief systems along five epistemological dimensions. These five factors are: (a) certainty of knowledge, (b) omniscient authority, (c) rigid learning, (d) innate ability, and (e) quick process. Confirmatory factor analysis of the data suggested that epistemological beliefs are not a unified system, and can be differentiated into at least five independent but somewhat related sub-types as proposed in this study. The differentiation of the belief system into sub-types makes it possible to understand its psychological complexity.
In addition, this study compared individuals' belief systems across different levels of education and in different academic fields. Graduate students and social science students tend to believe that learning is a process where learners form their ideas from different perspectives in order to deal with uncertain situations; whereas undergraduate students and engineering students tend to believe that learning is a process where students assimilate already-formulated truth handed down by teachers. The results of this study imply that individual epistemological beliefs are affected by level of education and the knowledge domain in which a person specializes. This also suggests the situated nature of individual belief systems, and that, often, the forms of epistemological beliefs are shaped by people's culture.
Issue Date:1991
Rights Information:Copyright 1991 Jehng, Jihn-Chang Joseph
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9124435
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9124435

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