Instructional Science

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 49–79 | Cite as

Besides knowledge: a cross-sectional study on the relations between epistemic beliefs, achievement goals, self-beliefs, and achievement in science

  • Lucia MasonEmail author
  • Pietro Boscolo
  • Maria Caterina Tornatora
  • Lucia Ronconi


This study examines the contribution of learner cognitive and motivational characteristics to achievement in science at three grade levels. Specifically, the relations between domain-specific epistemic beliefs about the development and justification of scientific knowledge, achievement goals, knowledge, self-concept, self-efficacy, and achievement in science were simultaneously examined. Students in fifth (n = 213), eighth (n = 202), and eleventh (n = 281) grades completed questionnaires measuring the various constructs, and a domain knowledge test. Their grades in science were also collected. Results from structural equation modeling reveal that the hypothesized model fitted the observed data at the three grade levels, although not all expected paths were statistically significant. Students’ epistemic beliefs about the development of scientific knowledge had a direct effect on domain knowledge, whereas beliefs about the justification of scientific knowledge had a direct and an indirect effect via achievement goals on knowledge acquisition. Mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoidance goals had a direct effect on self-efficacy. Knowledge had a direct and an indirect effect via self-concept on achievement. Educational implications are discussed.


Epistemic beliefs Achievement goals Self-concept Self-efficacy Domain knowledge Achievement in science 



The study is part of an ongoing research project on learning difficulties in the science domain (STPD08HANE_001) funded by a grant to the first author from the University of Padova, Italy, under the funding program for “Strategic Projects”. We are very grateful to all the students, teachers, and school principals who made this study possible.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucia Mason
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pietro Boscolo
    • 1
  • Maria Caterina Tornatora
    • 1
  • Lucia Ronconi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Developmental Psychology and SocializationUniversity of PadovaPaduaItaly

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