Personal epistemology in US students with implications for citizenship. Presentation (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Rotshtein, R; Feucht, Florian C; Acher, A; Porter, K; Haubert, L


  • SUMMARY Our educational system reinforces the belief that students should obtain knowledge from outside sources or authorities instead of placing students as active constructors of their own knowledge. The development of sophisticated personal epistemologies allows students to become active learners, more engaged in the autonomous critical thinking and moral judgment necessary to good citizenship (Weinstock, Assor, & Broide, 2008). Personal epistemology refers to individuals’ beliefs about the nature of knowledge and the processes of knowing, which may develop into more sophisticated forms over time (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). The belief that knowledge is internally constructed is a sophisticated conception about the source of knowledge. In this study, sixth graders in the Midwest United States (n=49) were asked to select five items that look like knowledge to them, in both classroom and home settings, and write a rationale for why one item looked like knowledge. Students were more likely to describe items as sources of knowledge than as items that represent knowledge in itself. These sources included books, computers, television, and other people. Most students demonstrated the belief that knowledge is external to themselves rather than being internally constructed, and this trend was consistent across school and home contexts. Educators should strive to create learning environments in which students are active participants and constructors of knowledge in order to develop more sophisticated epistemological beliefs and promote good citizenship.

publication date

  • 2014