Dimensionality and Disciplinary Differences in Personal Epistemology

  • Hofer B
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A growing body of work addresses the nature of epistemological development and epistemological beliefs: how individuals come to know, the theories and beliefs they hold about knowing, and the manner in which such epistemological premises are a part of and an influence on the cognitive processes of thinking and reasoning. This study investigates the dimensionality of personal epistemology as hypothesized in a recent review of the literature as well as the nature of disciplinary differences. First-year college students responded to a set of questionnaires that included an adaptation of a domain-general epistemological instrument and a discipline-focused questionnaire. Results suggest that there is an underlying dimensionality to epistemological theories that cuts across disciplinary domains, but that students, at least by the 1st year of college, discriminate as to how these theories differ by discipline. Disciplinary differences were strong, suggesting that 1st-year college students see knowledge in science as more certain and unchanging than in psychology, are more likely to regard personal knowledge and firsthand experience as a basis for justification of knowing in psychology than in science, view authority and expertise as the source of knowledge more in science than in psychology, and perceive that in science, more than in psychology, truth is attainable by experts. This contradicts existing research that suggests that epistemological development is domain general and that epistemological beliefs do not differ by discipline. © 2000 Academic Press.

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  • Barbara K. Hofer

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