AffiliationUniversity of Southern Indiana
TitleWhy Research Methods Class?
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Epistemological beliefs (EB) are one’s assumptions about knowledge (Schommer, 1990; Hofer & Pintrich, 1997) and learning (Schommer, 1990). This study examined the role students' knowledge of research methods plays in refining their beliefs about knowledge and knowing. More specifically, this study investigated whether reflecting on and reporting one's own beliefs would facilitate a change in students' epistemological beliefs, and if this change differs as a function of one's knowledge of research methods. Students, from a research methods and cognitive processes class, took the epistemological belief survey at three different times (first-day, before the reflective writing task, and after the reflective writing task) during a semester. For each item on the survey, students rated their agreement with the statement about their epistemological beliefs on a 5-point Likert scale (1=Strongly Disagree; 5=Strongly Agree). Student-responses from the first day served as the baseline while the survey responses before the reflective writing task served as the pre-test and those after the writing task as the post-test responses. Participants' average score on items related to five beliefs about knowledge (Speed of knowledge acquisition, Structure of knowledge,) and learning (Knowledge construction and modification, Qualities of a successful student, and Attainability of objective truth) were calculated each time. After equating (co-varying) students on their baseline belief scores, results suggest that only research methods students showed a change in their beliefs after a reflective writing task. However, the change was only noticed in their beliefs about the structure of knowledge. No other findings were significant. Our findings suggest that reflecting on one's epistemological beliefs may help one refine it; however, a minimum level of background in research methods seems to be a prerequisite for this activity to help. This study identified the importance of students’ knowledge about research methods in potentially shaping their beliefs about knowledge.