Personal Epistemology


Personal epistemology describes what an individual believes about the nature of knowledge and how knowledge is formed.


Novice views include the ideas that knowledge must come from "authorities" and it is not possible to learn how to learn.

More sophisticated students see knowledge as tentative, related, and structured, and believe that they can (and must!) construct knowledge themselves.


An individual’s epistemology can have a profound impact on how that person will approach learning, develop cognitively, and succeed academically. In a study of college students, Schommer1 showed that students who believed that knowledge was certain were more likely to generate inappropriate conclusions from a reading. Ryan2 showed that the more students believe in simple knowledge, the more likely they are to equate factual recall with comprehension.



  1. M. Schommer, Effects of Beliefs About the Nature of Knowledge on Comprehension. J. Educ. Psychol., 1990. 82(3): p. 498-504.
  2. M. P. Ryan, Monitoring Text Comprehension: Individual Differences in Epistemological Standards. J. Educ. Psychol., 1984. 76(2): p. 248-58.