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Instructional Science

, 37:107 | Cite as

Distinguishing between knowledge and beliefs: students’ epistemic criteria for differentiating

  • Angela Boldrin
  • Lucia Mason
Article

Abstract

“I believe that he/she is telling the truth”, “I know about the solar system”: what epistemic criteria do students use to distinguish between knowledge and beliefs? If knowing and believing are conceptually distinguishable, do students of different grade levels use the same criteria to differentiate the two constructs? How do students understand the relationship between the two constructs? This study involved 219 students (116 girls and 103 boys); 114 were in 8th grade and 105 in 13th grade. Students had to (a) choose which of 5 graphic representations outlined better the relationship between the two constructs and to justify their choice; (b) rate a list of factual/validated, non-factual/non-validated and ambiguous statements as either knowledge or belief, and indicate for each statement their degree of truthfulness, acceptance and on which sources their views were based. Qualitative and quantitative analysis were performed. The data showed how students distinguish knowledge from belief conceptually and justify their understanding of the relationship between the two constructs. Although most students assigned a higher epistemic status to knowledge, school grade significantly differentiated the epistemic criteria used to distinguish the two constructs. The study indicates the educational importance of considering the notions of knowledge and belief that students bring into the learning situation.

Keywords

Knowledge Beliefs Epistemic criteria Epistemological thinking Epistemological beliefs 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are very grateful to the principals of the high and middle schools of Dolo (Venice), to the teachers for their collaboration and to all the students, whose work made this study possible. Moreover, we wish to warmly thank Gianmarco Altoè and Lucia Ronconi for their statistical suggestions and help. Finally we wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful and valuable comments on an earlier version of this work.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Socialization PsychologyUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

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