Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Investigation of Turkish Trainee Teachers' Epistemological Beliefs

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Investigation of Turkish Trainee Teachers' Epistemological Beliefs

Article excerpt

The aim of this study was to determine Turkish trainee teachers' epistemological beliefs and to examine them with respect to some variables. The study group was composed of 331 Turkish trainee teachers studying at Dumlupinar University Education Faculty. Data were collected using the Turkish version of the Epistemological Beliefs Questionnaire (Deryakulu & Buyüköztürk, 2002, 2005; Schommer, 1990). It was found that trainee teachers' beliefs that learning depends on effort rather than ability were sophisticated compared to their other beliefs; while the belief that there is only one unchanging truth was naïve compared to their other beliefs. Turkish trainee teachers' epistemological beliefs differed significantly in terms of gender. That is, female students believed more than did males that learning depends on effort rather than ability.

Keywords: individual differences, epistemological beliefs, gender, trainee teacher, teacher education.

One important characteristic of an individual is his or her epistemological beliefs. Many recent studies conducted in the field of education have examined the structure of epistemological beliefs of students at various educational levels and described the relationship between those beliefs and various variables in the learning process (Brownlee, 2001; Cano, 2005; Ravindran, Greene, & DeBacker, 2005; Schommer-Aikins, Mau, Brookhait, & Hutter, 2000; Schreiber & Shinn, 2003). Understanding students' epistemological beliefs, trying to improve them and creating suitable learning environments should be the aim of an education that values individual differences.

Educational psychologists have defined epistemological beliefs as the systems of implicit assumptions and beliefs that students have about the nature of knowledge and its acquisition (Paulsen & Feldman, 2005). Epistemological beliefs are viewed as a specific kind of belief in one's belief system. This includes knowledge about the limitations, certainty, and criterion of knowing (Chan & Elliott, 2002). The learner performs in line with these beliefs. If the learner views knowledge as simple and certain, it is improbable he or she will make the cognitive effort to develop him/herself. Similarly, those who believe that knowledge is inherently complex and tentative should focus on personal development (DeBacker & Crowson, 2006). Epistemological beliefs range from the naïve to the sophisticated. Those who have naïve beliefs think that the truth is certain, absolute, and can be transmitted by an authority; on the other hand, those who have sophisticated beliefs think that truth is relative and flexible and can be actively constructed by the individual (Brownlee, Purdie, & BoultonLewis, 2001).

Research about personal epistemology or epistemological beliefs has included studies on the individual's personal beliefs regarding the nature of knowledge. While some of these studies have focused on general developmental changes in personal epistemology (Ravindran et al., 2005), others have focused on the nature and dimensionality of specific epistemology (Schommer-Aikins, Duell, & Hutter, 2005; Schommer-Aikins et al., 2000). Studies that examine the individual's epistemological development and introduce theoretical models divide epistemological development into similar stages and consider epistemological beliefs in one dimension, that is, in terms of beliefs regarding knowledge, intellect, or learning (Deryakulu, 2004; Deryakulu & Büyüköztürk, 2002).

In the present study, Schommer's epistemological belief system was adopted because it is multidimensional and because its reliability and validity have been tested in many studies. This system includes both the individual's knowledge and beliefs regarding learning. Each of the epistemological beliefs influences learning directly or indirectly, and all are relatively independent from each other. While individuals could demonstrate sophisticated beliefs in one dimension of this belief system, they might not do so in another dimension (Ravindran et al. …

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