Understanding First Year University Students: Personal epistemology and learning

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Whilst participation in higher education has increased dramatically over the last two decades, many universities are only now beginning to pay more attention to the learning experiences of first year students. It is important for universities to understand how first year students conceive of learning and knowing in order to promote effective approaches to learning. Even though an extensive body of research demonstrates that beliefs about learning and knowing influence student approaches to learning and learning outcomes, there has been no Australian research that has investigated this critical learner characteristic across first year university students.

This paper reports on preliminary data from an ongoing longitudinal study designed to investigate first year students' beliefs about knowing and learning (epistemological beliefs). Students from teacher education and creative industry faculties in two Australian universities completed the Epistemological Beliefs Survey (EBS) in the first week of their first semester of study. A series of one-way ANOVA using key demographics as independent variables and the EBS factor scores as dependent variables showed that epistemological beliefs were related to the course of study, previous post-school education experience, family experience at university, gender, and age. These data help us to understand students' beliefs about learning and knowing with a view to informing effective learning in higher education.


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