British Journal of Educational Psychology

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Volume 76 Issue 3 (September 2006), Pages 429-681

Influences on cognitive engagement: Epistemological beliefs and need for closure (pages 535-551)

Background. Research indicates that achievement goals influence cognitive engagement, which, in turn, influences academic achievement. We believe that there are other individual difference variables in the realm of personal epistemology that may also directly or indirectly influence cognitive engagement; specifically, epistemological beliefs and epistemological motives (e.g. need for closure).

Aims. This study proposed and tested a conceptual model of relationships among epistemological variables (epistemological beliefs and need for closure), achievement goals (mastery, performance‐approach, performance‐avoidance) and cognitive engagement.

Sample. Two hundred and fifty‐nine students attending university in the US volunteered to participate in the study. Students represented a variety of academic disciplines and ranged from 18 to 58 years.

Methods. The participants completed three paper‐and‐pencil surveys: the Epistemological Beliefs Inventory; the Attitudes, Beliefs, and Experiences Inventory (a measure of need for closure); and the Approaches to Learning Survey (a measure of achievement goals and cognitive engagement).

Results. Structural equation modelling supported the model in general, although not all proposed paths were significant. Correlational analyses further indicated that epistemological beliefs and need for closure are both potentially important variables for understanding learners' treatment of knowledge in instructional settings.

Conclusions. There are individual differences in epistemological beliefs and motives that may influence the goals students pursue in learning settings and the nature of their cognitive engagement.

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