Epistemological beliefs of administrators: a comparison of beliefs and actions of elementary and secondary administrators

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Epistemology is the study of knowledge and learning and is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of knowledge, scope, general basis, and justification of belief (Honderich, 1995). Epistemological beliefs refer to an individual's beliefs about the nature of and knowledge of learning. Schommer (1992) contended that the study of epistemological beliefs could help identify the impact schooling may have on an individual's beliefs about the nature of knowledge and learning. Arredondo and Rucinski (1998) questioned "whether epistemological beliefs of principals might affect their support of certain innovations or their involvement of teachers in school decision processes and other supervisory practices" (p. 294). This study described what principals' beliefs about knowledge and learning are, and examined how they enact their beliefs in schools. The study was guided by two research questions: (1) What are the epistemological beliefs of elementary and secondary school administrators? (2) How do administrators perceive they enact these beliefs in their schools? The Epistemological Beliefs Questionnaire developed by Marlene Schommer (1990) was used to answer research question 1. The questionnaire was sent to 126 administrators in five school districts in a southern state. Seventy-eight administrators responded to the survey. Data from the study were analyzed by examining the factor scores for each administrator as well as finding mean scores for high and low scoring participants. Results showed significant differences between high and low scoring participants on each of the identified factors. Information for research question 2 was obtained by conducting 16 purposefully selected individual interviews with elementary and secondary administrators. Interviews began with a iii discussion of epistemology and simple and complex learning. Interviewees were then asked questions about their beliefs and actions. After transcription, emergent themes and categories were examined to determine what administrators' epistemological beliefs are and what administrators perceive they do in their schools to enact their epistemological beliefs. Implications for practitioners, researchers and policy developers were included.

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