At the Crossroads of Epistemology and Motivation: Modeling the Relations between Students' Domain-Specific Epistemological Beliefs, Achievement Motivation, and Task Performance

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Within the educational literature, students' epistemological beliefs (i.e., beliefs about the nature of knowledge) have been examined in relation to a variety of cognitive learning outcomes (e.g., strategy use and academic performance). However, relatively few investigations have explored the relations between students' epistemological beliefs and achievement motivation. In this investigation, a model of the potential relations between epistemological beliefs, achievement motivation, and learning outcomes was proposed and a portion of the model was tested. Specifically, I focused on the domain-specific epistemological beliefs, ability beliefs, expectancies for success, achievement value, intentions, and task performance of college students.

Four-hundred and eighty-two students completed measures designed to assess students' a) beliefs about the structure, stability, and source of knowledge, b) ability beliefs, c) expectancies for success, d) achievement values, and e) intentions to engage in future tasks relative to history and mathematics. Students also completed a learning task related to history and mathematics. The learning task involved reading a two-part passage that described the history and mathematics of statistical regression. After reading each portion of the passage, participants reported the strategies they used. Students also completed knowledge tests designed to assess what they learned.

Separate confirmatory factor analyses were conducted to determine the structure of students' epistemological beliefs, ability beliefs and expectancies for success, and achievement values. Findings supported the domain-specific and multidimensional nature of epistemological beliefs and suggested the presence of underlying domain-general beliefs. Additionally, previous findings with respect to the structure of students' ability beliefs, expectancies for success, and achievement values were replicated (e.g., Wigfield & Eccles, 2000). Separate structural equation models were applied to the history and mathematics data to assess the proposed relations between epistemological beliefs, achievement motivation, and learning outcomes. Evidence supported many of the hypothesized relations. For instance, students' epistemological beliefs significantly influenced their competency beliefs, achievement values, and some forms of strategy use. Relations between competency beliefs, achievement values, task performance, and intentions were also confirmed. These findings indicate the need for additional research examining the relations between epistemological beliefs and motivation and highlight the practical significance of students' epistemological beliefs.