Developmental Changes in Epistemological Beliefs
As someone who learns new things every day, you undoubtedly have ideas about what "knowledge" and "learning" are. Such ideas are collectively known as epistemological beliefs. Included in people's epistemological beliefs are their views about the certainty, structure, and source of knowledge; about the speed with which learning occurs; and about the nature of learning ability. As children and adolescents develop, many (though not all) of them change their beliefs about knowledge and learning. The table below lists and describes the typical developmental changes of epistemological beliefs in children.
|With regard to...||Children initially believe that...||As they develop, they may eventually begin to realize that...|
|The certainty of knowledge||Knowledge about a topic is a fixed, unchanging, absolute "truth."||Knowledge about a topic (even that of experts) is tentative and dynamic; it continues to evolve as ongoing inquiry and research add new insights and ideas.|
|The simplicity and structure of knowledge||Knowledge is a collection of discrete, largely unrelated facts.||Knowledge is a set of complex and interrelated ideas.|
|The source of knowledge||Knowledge comes from outside the learner, for instance from a teacher or "authority" of some kind.||Knowledge is derived and constructed by learners themselves.|
|The speed of learning||Knowledge is acquired quickly, and in an all-or-nothing fashion, or else not at all. As a result, people either know something or they don't.||Knowledge is acquired gradually over time. Thus people can have greater or lesser degrees of knowledge about a topic.|
|The nature of learning ability||People's ability to learn is a stable quality over which they have little control.||People's ability to learn can improve with practice and the use of better strategies.|
Sources: Astington & Pelletier, 1996; Hammer, 1994; Hofer & Pintrich, 1997, 2002; Hogan, 1997; Kuhn & Franklin, 2006; M.C. Linn, Songer, & Eylon, 1996; W.G. Perry, 1968; Schommer, 1994a, 1994b, 1997.
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