Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 293–319 | Cite as

Synthesizing epistemological belief research: Tentative understandings and provocative confusions

  • Marlene Schommer


The definition of epistemological beliefs takes on different shades of meaning from study to study; but, in general, researchers of personal epistemology are interested in what individuals believe about the source, certainty, and organization of knowledge, as well as the control and the speed of learning. Epistemological beliefs have been found to relate to reading comprehension, learning in complex and ill-structured domains, as well as learners' active participation and persistence in learning. Researchers are at odds on the issues of epistemological development and the roles that education and culture play in epistemological beliefs.

Key Words

epistemology epistemological beliefs cognitive development 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, R. C. (1984). Some reflections on the acquisition of knowledge.Educat. Res. 13: 5–10.Google Scholar
  2. Basseches, M. (1986). Dialectical thinking and young adult cognitive development. In Mines, R. A., and Kitchener, K. S. (eds.),Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger Publishers, New York, pp. 33–45.Google Scholar
  3. Baxter Magolda, M. B. (1992). Students' epistemologies and academic experiences: Implications for pedagogy.Rev. Higher Educat. 15: 265–287.Google Scholar
  4. Beers, S. E. (1988). Epistemological assumptions and college teaching: Interactions in the college classroom.J. Res. Devel. Educat. 21: 87–94.Google Scholar
  5. Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., and Tarule, J. M. (1986).Women's Ways of Knowing, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  6. Benack, S. (1984). Postformal epistemologies and the growth of empathy. In Commons, M. L., Richards, F. A., and Armon, C. (eds.),Beyond Formal Operations: Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger Publishing, New York, pp. 340–356.Google Scholar
  7. Boyes, M. C., and Chandler, M. (1992). Cognitive development, epistemic doubt, and identity formation in adolescence.J. Youth Adolesc. 21: 277–304.Google Scholar
  8. Brabeck, M. M. (1984). Longitudinal studies of intellectual development during adulthood: Theoretical and research models.J. Res. Devel. Educat. 17: 12–27.Google Scholar
  9. Broughton, J. M. (1984). Not beyond formal operations but beyond Piaget. In Commons, M. L., Richards, F. A., and Armon, C. (eds.),Beyond Formal Operations; Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger Publishing, New York, pp. 395–411.Google Scholar
  10. Burbules, N. C., and Linn, M. C. (1991). Science education and philosophy of science: Congruence or contradiction?Int. J. Sci. Educat. 13: 227–242.Google Scholar
  11. Chandler, M. (1987). The Othello effect; Essay on the emergence and eclipse of skeptical doubt.Hum. Devel. 30: 137–159.Google Scholar
  12. Chandler, M., Boyes, M., and Ball, L. (1990). Relativism and stations of epistemic doubt.J. Exp. Child Psychol. 50: 370–395.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Cleminson, A. (1990). Establishing an epistemological base for science teaching in the light of contemporary notions of the nature of science and of how children learn science.J. Res. Sci. Teaching 27: 429–445.Google Scholar
  14. Cronin-Jones, L. L. (1991). Science teacher beliefs and their influence on curriculum implementation: Two case studies.J. Res. Sci. Teaching. 28: 235–250.Google Scholar
  15. Darling-Hammond, L. (1993). Reframing the school reform agenda.Phi Delta Kappan 753–761.Google Scholar
  16. diSessa, A. A. (1988). Knowledge in pieces. In Forman, G., and Pufall, P. B. (eds.),Constructivism in the Computer Age, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 49–70.Google Scholar
  17. Dunkle, M. F., Schraw, G. J., and Bendixen, L. (1993). The Relationship Between Epistemological Beliefs, Causal Attributions, and Reflective Judgment. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta.Google Scholar
  18. Dweck, C. S., and Bempechat, J. (1983). Children's theories of intelligence: Consequences for learning. In Paris, S. G., and Olson, G. M., and Stevenson, H. W. (eds.),Learning and Motivation in the Classroom, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 239–256.Google Scholar
  19. Dweck, C. S., and Leggett, E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to motivation and personality.Psychol. Rev. 95: 256–273.Google Scholar
  20. Elbaum, B. E., Berg, C. A., and Dodd, D. H. (1993). Previous learning experience, strategy beliefs, and task definition in self-regulated foreign language learning.Contemp. Educat. Psychol. 18: 318–336.Google Scholar
  21. Fournier, J., and Wineburg, S. S. (1993). Framing Assumptions and the Learning of History. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta.Google Scholar
  22. Gilligan, C. (1982).In a Different Voice. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  23. Glenberg, A. M., and Epstein, W. (1987). Inexpert calibration of comprehension.Mem. Cognit. 15: 84–93.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Horwitz, E. K. (1988). The beliefs about language learning on beginning university foreign language students.Modern Lang. J. 72: 283–294.Google Scholar
  25. Jegede, O. J., and Okebukola, P. A. O. (1991). The effect of instruction on socio-cultural beliefs hindering the learning of science.J. Res. Sci. Teaching 28: 275–285.Google Scholar
  26. Jehng, J. J., Johnson, S. D., and Anderson, R. C. (1993). Schooling and student's epistemological beliefs about learning.Contemp. Educat. Psychol. 18: 23–35.Google Scholar
  27. Johnston, P. H. (1985). Understanding reading disability: A case study approach.Harvard Educat. Rev. 55: 153–177.Google Scholar
  28. King, P. M., Kitchener, K. S., Davison, M. L., Parker, C. A., and Wood, P. K. (1983). The justification of beliefs in young adults: A longitudinal study.Hum. Devel. 26: 106–116.Google Scholar
  29. Kitchener, K. S. (1983). Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognition: A three-level model of cognitive processing.Hum. Devel. 26: 222–232.Google Scholar
  30. Kitchener, K. S. (1986). The reflective judgement model: Characteristics, evidence, and measurement. In Mines, R. A., and Kitchener, K. S. (eds.),Adult Cognitive Development; Methods and Models, Praeger Publishing, New York, pp. 76–91.Google Scholar
  31. Kitchener, K. S., and King, P. M. (1981). Reflective judgment: Concepts of justification and their relationship to age and education.J. Appl. Devel. Psychol. 2: 89–116.Google Scholar
  32. Kitchener, K. S., and King, P. M. (1990). The reflective judgment model: Ten years of research. In Commons, M. L., Armon, C., Kohlberg, L., Richards, F. A., Grotzer, T. A., and Sinnott, J. D. (eds.),Adult Development 3: Models and Methods in the Study of Adolescent and Adult Thought. Praeger, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Kitchener, K. S., King, P. M., Wood, P. K., and Davison, M. L. (1989). Sequentiality and consistency in the development of reflective judgment: A six-year longitudinal study.J. Appl. Devel. Psychol. 10: 73–95.Google Scholar
  34. Kramer, D. A. (1983). Post-formal operations? A need for further conceptualization.Hum. Devel. 26: 91–105.Google Scholar
  35. Kuhn, D. (1992). Thinking as argument.Harvard Educat. Rev. 62: 155–178.Google Scholar
  36. Labouvie-Vief, G. (1984). Logic and self-regulation from youth to maturity: A model. In Commons, M. L., Richards, F. A., and Armon, C. (eds.),Beyond Formal Operations; Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger Publishing, New York, pp. 158–179.Google Scholar
  37. Langer, E. L. (1993). A mindful education.Educat. Psychol. 28: 43–50.Google Scholar
  38. Lavallee, M., Gourde, A., and Rodier, C. (1990). The impact of lived experience on cognitivoethical development of today's women.Int. J. Behav. Devel. 13: 407–430.Google Scholar
  39. Lederman, N. G. (1992). Students' and teachers' conceptions of the nature of science: A review of the research.J. Res. Sci. Teaching 29: 331–359.Google Scholar
  40. Linn, M. C., Songer, N. B., and Lewis, E. L. (1991). Overview: Students' models and epistemologies of science.J. Res. Sci. Teaching 28: 729–732.Google Scholar
  41. Livengood, J. M. (1992). Students' motivational goals and beliefs about effort and ability as they relate to college academic success.Res. Higher Educat. 33: 247–261.Google Scholar
  42. McDevitt, T. M. (1990). Mothers' and children's beliefs about listening.Child Study J. 20: 105–128.Google Scholar
  43. McDevitt, T. M., Spivey, N., Sheehan, E. P., Lennon, R., and Story, R. (1990). Children's beliefs about listening: Is it enough to be still and quiet?.Child Devel. 61: 713–721.Google Scholar
  44. McDevitt, T. M., Sheehan, E. P., and McMenamin, N. (1991). Self-reports of academic listening activities by traditional and nontraditional college students.College Student J. 25(1), 478–486.Google Scholar
  45. Miller, R. B., Behrens, J. T., Greene, B. A., and Newman, D. (1993). Goals and perceived ability: Impact on student valuing, self-regulation, and persistence.Contemp. Educat. Psychol. 18: 2–14.Google Scholar
  46. Mtetwa, D., and Garofalo, J. (1989). Beliefs about mathematics: An overlooked aspect of student difficulties.Acad. Ther. 24: 611–618.Google Scholar
  47. Pai, Y. (1990).Cultural Foundations of Education. Merrill Publishing Company, Columbus.Google Scholar
  48. Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers' beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct.Rev. Educat. Res. 62: 307–332.Google Scholar
  49. Perry, W. G. Jr. (1968).Patterns of Development in Thought and Values of Students in a Liberal Arts College: A Validation of a Scheme, Cambridge, MA: Bureau of Study Counsel, Harvard University (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 024315).Google Scholar
  50. Perry, W. G., Jr. (1970).Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme, Holt Rinehart and Winston, New York.Google Scholar
  51. Rigden, J. S., and Tobias, S. (1991). Too often, college-level science is dull as well as difficult.Chron. Higher Educat. 37(28):A52.Google Scholar
  52. Royce, J. R., and Powell, A. (1983).Theory of Personality and Individual Differences: Factors, Systems, and Processes, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.Google Scholar
  53. Ryan, M. P. (1984a). Monitoring text comprehension: Individual differences in epistemological standards.J. Educat. Psychol. 76: 248–258.Google Scholar
  54. Ryan, M. P. (1984b). Conceptions of prose coherence: Individual differences in epistemological standards.J. Educat. Psychol. 76: 1226–1238.Google Scholar
  55. Schoenfeld, A. H. (1983). Beyond the purely cognitive: Beliefs systems, social cognitions, and metacognitions as driving forces in intellectual performance.Cognit. Sci. 7: 329–363.Google Scholar
  56. Schoenfeld, A. H. (1985).Mathematical Problem Solving, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  57. Schoenfeld, A. H. (1988). When good teaching leads to bad results: The disasters of “well-taught” mathematics courses.Educat. Psychol. 23: 145–166.Google Scholar
  58. Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension.J. Educat. Psychol. 82: 498–504.Google Scholar
  59. Schommer, M. (1992). Predictors of Epistemological Beliefs: Comparing Adults with Only a Secondary Education to Adults with Post-Secondary Education. Paper presented at the Midwestern Educational Research Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  60. Schommer, M. (1993a). Epistemological development and academic performance among secondary students.J. Educat. Psychol. 85: 1–6.Google Scholar
  61. Schommer, M. (1993b). Predictors of Epistemological Beliefs: Comparing Adults with Only a Secondary Education to Adults with Post Secondary Education. Paper presented at the Midwestern Educational Research Association, Chicago.Google Scholar
  62. Schommer, M. (1994). An emerging conceptualization of epistemological beliefs and their role in learning. In Garner, R., and Alexander, P. (eds.),Beliefs About Text and About Text Instruction, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, New Jersey, pp. 25–39.Google Scholar
  63. Schommer, M., Crouse, A., and Rhodes, N. (1992). Epistemological beliefs and mathematical text comprehension: Believing it's simple doesn't make it so.J. Educat. Psychol. 84: 435–443.Google Scholar
  64. Short, K. G., and Burke, C. L. (1989). New potentials for teacher education: Teaching and learning as inquiry.Elem. School J. 90: 193–206.Google Scholar
  65. Silva, T., and Nicholls, J. G. (1993). College students as writing theorists: Goals and beliefs about the causes of success.Contemp. Educat. Psychol. 18: 281–293.Google Scholar
  66. Sinnott, J. D. (1984). Postformal reasoning: The relativistic stage. In Commons, M. L., Richards, F. A., and Armon, C. (eds.),Beyond Formal Operations: Late Adolescent and Adult Cognitive Development, Praeger Publishing, New York, pp. 298–325.Google Scholar
  67. Songer, N. B., and Linn, M. C. (1991). How do students' views of science influence knowledge integration?J. Res. Sci. Teaching 28: 761–784.Google Scholar
  68. Spiro, R. J. (1989). Epistemological Beliefs Questionnaire. University of Illinois, Center for the Study of Reading, Champaign, IL. Unpublished raw data.Google Scholar
  69. Spiro, R. J., Vispoel, W. L., Schmitz, J., Samarapungavan, A., and Boerger, R. (1987). Knowledge acquisition for application: Cognitive flexibility and transfer in complex content domains. In Britton, B. C. (ed.),Executive Control Processes, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 177–199.Google Scholar
  70. Spiro, R. J., Coulson, R. L., Feltovich, P. J., and Anderson, D. K. (1988). Cognitive flexibility theory: Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In Patel, V., and Groen, G. (eds.),Tenth Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, pp. 375–383.Google Scholar
  71. Strange, C. C., and King, P. M. (1981). Intellectual development and its relationship to maturation during the college years.J. Appl. Devel. Psychol. 2: 281–295.Google Scholar
  72. Toulmin, S. (1972).Human Understanding: Volume I: General Introduction and Part I. Princeton University Press, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  73. Underhill, R. (1988). Focus on research into practice in diagnostic and prescriptive mathematics. Mathematics learners' beliefs: A review.Focus Learning Prob. Math. 10: 55–69.Google Scholar
  74. Unger, R. K., Draper, R. D., and Pendergrass, M. L. (1986). Personal epistemology and personal experience.J. Soc. Issues 42: 67–79.Google Scholar
  75. Wade, S., and Thompson, A. (1993).Effect of Beliefs on Responses to Historical Information. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association, Atlanta.Google Scholar
  76. Walker, L. (1985). Grammar teaching in Alberta, 1905–1985.Eng. Quart. 18: 24–34.Google Scholar
  77. Wineburg, S. S. (1991). On the reading of historical texts: Notes on the breach between school and academy.Am. Educat. Res. J. 28: 495–519.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marlene Schommer
    • 1
  1. 1.Wichita State UniversityUSA

Personalised recommendations