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Epistemological beliefs are standards for adaptive learning: a functional theory about epistemological beliefs and metacognition


Empirical studies reveal a close relationship between epistemological beliefs (EBs) and metacognition. For example, more ‘sophisticated’ beliefs are associated with more self-reported monitoring strategies. This relationship is also advocated theoretically. Nevertheless, exactly how and why EBs impact learning is still an open question. In accordance with others (for example Muis 2007; Muis and Franco 2009) we conceive the COPES Model (Winne and Hadwin 1998) as an appropriate answer to the how question. Within that model, epistemological beliefs are conceptualized as ‘internal conditions of learning’ and they are embedded into recursive processes of self- regulation. With regard to the why question, we assume that EBs function as general ideas about knowledge for the apprehension of the content to be learnt. Such apprehension allows for the calibration of learning to different learning tasks. We review two clusters of studies on the preparatory and the enactment stages of learning testing this apprehension and calibration hypothesis.

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  1. 1.

    In concurrence with the most widely used conceptual framework (Hofer and Pintrich 1997) we use the term “epistemological beliefs”. It should be noted that the terminology of researchers interested in personal epistemology is not united and controversial discussed (e.g. Hofer 2001). To give an example, recently the term ‘epistemic beliefs’ is often used as an alternative (e.g., Muis 2007) and it is argued that this term is more correct in its literal denotations (Greene et al. 2008). However, detailing this controversial discussion about terminology is beyond the scope of this paper.

  2. 2.

    Note that this is a rough description of the normative assumptions underlying most of the recent research on epistemological beliefs. There are good arguments for a less black and white account on what makes up ‘sophisticated’ epistemological beliefs. We have suggested elsewhere (Bromme et al. 2008) to conceive those beliefs ‘sophisticated’ which allow for a context appropriate shift between the knowledge as given facts – view and the knowledge as preliminary and socially shared -view.

  3. 3.

    The conceptual relationship between ‘self-regulation’ and ‘metacognitive skill’ has been discussed controversially. Veenman et al. (2006, p. 4) have described that self-regulation has been conceived as a subordinate component of metacognition as well as a concept superordinate to metacognition (the latter position for example also held within the COPES model (see below). For a detailed discussion, see Dinsmore, Alexander, & Loughlin 2008).


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Correspondence to Rainer Bromme.

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Bromme, R., Pieschl, S. & Stahl, E. Epistemological beliefs are standards for adaptive learning: a functional theory about epistemological beliefs and metacognition. Metacognition Learning 5, 7–26 (2010).

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  • Epistemological beliefs
  • Metacognitive knowledge
  • Self-regulated learning
  • Preparatory phase
  • Phases of learning
  • Learning paradox