A sociocultural exploration of epistemological beliefs Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Recent research points to the centrality of epistemological knowledge in subject-matter learning and reasoning. However, our understanding of factors that might influence epistemological development is still fairly limited. In this chapter, we synthesize results from a series of cross-sectional studies in order to consider sociocultural perspectives of epistemological development, and the role that schooling, community, and culture play in this process. An overall sample of 390 Israeli adolescents completed an epistemological reasoning questionnaire, adapted from Kuhn et al. (2000), which assesses whether respondents hold absolutist, multiplist, or evaluativist positions concerning the truth-value of knowledge claims in values, social, and physical domains. Participants included secular Jewish 7th, 9th, and 11th graders, religious Jewish 7th graders, and Bedouin 7th and 9th graders. Thus, we were able to compare differences in epistemological positions across grade-level and cultural background. There were similar gradelevel differences in both groups, but the Bedouins had higher percentages of absolutists than the Jews in all domains, particularly in values. Grade-level changes across cultural groups suggest that schooling is a factor in changes in epistemological understanding. However, cultural differences suggest that cultural values and out-of-school interactions might also be a factor in epistemological understanding. Sociocultural theory provides a framework that can explain patterns that diverge from typical developmental models, and existing literature on the epistemological beliefs of particular cultural groups. The results might help explain why it has been difficult to find consistent age-related epistemological development.

publication date

  • January 1, 2008