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A Pilot Validation Study Of The Epistemological Beliefs Assessment For Engineering (Ebae): First Year Engineering Student Beliefs

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Measurement Tools

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.71.1 - 15.71.10



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Paper Authors


Adam Carberry Tufts University

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Adam R. Carberry is a Doctoral Candidate in Engineering Education in the Tufts University Math, Science, Technology, and Engineering Education program. He holds an M.S. in Chemistry from Tufts University and a B.S. in Material Science Engineering from Alfred University. He is currently working at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach as a research assistant and manager of the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program (STOMP).

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Matthew Ohland Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and is the Past President of Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society. He received his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996. Previously, he served as Assistant Director of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Engineering Education Coalition. He studies longitudinal student records in engineering education, team-member effectiveness, and the implementation of high-engagement teaching methods.

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Chris Swan Tufts University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Swan is an Associate Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Tufts University. His current interests relate to service learning in engineering education, the reuse of recovered or recyclable materials, and sustainable construction.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

A Pilot Validation Study of the Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Engineering (EBAE): First-Year Engineering Student Beliefs


This paper presents a study assessing first-year students’ engineering epistemological beliefs or beliefs about engineering knowledge and knowing. A small cohort of first-year engineering students pilot tested a new quantitative instrument called the Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Engineering (EBAE). Student responses to the EBAE were used to validate the instrument and analyze the epistemological beliefs – certainty of knowledge, simplicity of knowledge, source of knowing, and justification for knowing – of first-year engineering students. Results of this study produced thirteen validated items, which gauged first-year engineering students’ epistemological beliefs as slightly sophisticated – mean score of 63.8 ≥ 8.4 out of 100.


In 2006, a special report addressing The Research Agenda for the New Discipline of Engineering Education identified five research areas to “inform how the content should be taught as well as how future learning environments should be designed”;[1] one of these areas was Engineering Epistemologies. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that concerns the nature and scope of knowledge and the process(es) by which knowledge is gained. Epistemology of engineering, therefore, addresses the questions of how we come to know engineering, what engineering learning is, and what constitutes engineering thinking and knowledge.

The inclusion of engineering epistemology as a main area of engineering education research exemplifies a shift in what is important to know, teach, and research about engineering. Emphasis placed on characterizing the nature of engineering knowledge is a major step into analyzing the “inherently philosophical character of engineering”.[2] This aspect is often overlooked in engineering education even though a discussion of a philosophy of engineering and engineering education has occurred for some time.[3-11]

In this paper we will discuss a study we conducted looking at first-year engineering students’ engineering epistemological beliefs; i.e., the beliefs students hold to be true about the nature of engineering knowledge and the nature of knowing engineering.[12] We will first supply a brief history of the theory and the work that has been conducted to investigate epistemological beliefs with some insight into a philosophy of engineering. We will then describe the development of a quantitative instrument designed to measure engineering epistemological beliefs. Finally we will discuss the results of a pilot study that we conducted using our instrument to analyze first-year engineering students’ engineering epistemological beliefs. These steps will be taken to answer two research questions:

1) Does our instrument accurately measure engineering epistemological beliefs? 2) What are the engineering epistemological beliefs held by first-year engineering students?

Carberry, A., & Ohland, M., & Swan, C. (2010, June), A Pilot Validation Study Of The Epistemological Beliefs Assessment For Engineering (Ebae): First Year Engineering Student Beliefs Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15693

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