Elby - JLS 2009

Defining Personal Epistemology: A Response to Hofer & Pintrich (1997) and Sandoval (2005)
Journal of the Learning Sciences, Volume 18, Issue 1 January 2009 , pages 138 - 149
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10508400802581684

Andrew Elby

Some researchers, including B. K. Hofer and P. R. Pintrich (1997) and W. A. Sandoval (2005), argue for defining personal epistemology as views about the nature of knowledge and knowing but not views about the nature of learning. Others continue using a more expansive definition of personal epistemology that includes views about learning. I argue that the scope of personal epistemology should not be decided entirely a priori. If people's views about the nature of knowing and knowledge turn out to be separable from (despite being intertwined with) their views about the nature of learning, then it makes sense to define 2 separate areas of study corresponding to those 2 separable sets of psychological constructs. From some theoretical perspectives, however, empirical results may support the interpretation that views about knowledge are inseparably entangled with views about learning. In that case, excluding views about learning from personal epistemology obscures rather than elucidates the content and cognitive structure of students' views. To be clear, I do not think the community should decide, now, to etch “views about the nature of learning” into the definition of personal epistemology. I argue instead that it is more productive not to converge on a definition until further empirical and theoretical progress points us toward the best way to “cut up [nature] … along its natural joints” (Plato, 1995, p. 64).