Does one’s learning theory and/or epistemology change over time?

While researching studies to support my own learning theory, I stumbled across a longitudinal study that addressed this very question. Walker, Brownlee, Whiteford, Exely, & Woods (2012) studied if and how teachers’ learning theories and epistemologies changed throughout their training, from when they first entered the program to when they completed their four-year degree (pp. 24-35). Their findings have significant value for future teacher-training programs.

SpringAs the students progressed through their teacher training, they were: “more likely to believe that knowledge is integrated rather than consisting of a series of facts” (p.28-29); “more likely…to believe that learning might take time” (p. 29); “more likely to believe that the characteristics of successful students include more than innate ability” (p. 29); and “more likely…to believe that knowledge is uncertain” (p. 29).


Walker, et. al. (2012) discuss other research studies in their article that illustrate how teachers’ epistemological frameworks influence their teaching styles. For example, students who believed more in an objectivist epistemology at the start of their teacher training “…were less likely to accept a range of solution strategies or algorithms [in mathematical thinking] that were invented by children” (p. 26). The article also discusses a study that shows how the use of contradictory articles helped develop critical thinking skills, which, in turn, influenced personal epistemologies (p. 32).


The authors conclude that, “Engaging in reflection, experiencing contradictions in theories and opinions, developing a deep understanding, and gaining further knowledge are categories which suggest that challenging, meaningful learning experiences seem to have an impact on preservice teachers’ personal epistemologies” (p. 31). If these categories impacted new teachers’ ways of thinking, then one could surmise these constructivist type activities would have an effect on different students’ thinking in other ways.


All images by DGJ, Retrieved from

Walker, S., Brownlee, J., Whiteford, C., Exely, B., & Woods, A. (2012). A Longitudinal Study of Change in Preservice Teachers’ Personal Epistemologies. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 37(5). Retrieved:


  1. Martha, your research certainly strikes a cord in my observations on how I have identified with my personal epistemology. To date I am open to evolving my believe as I learn more and mature as a teacher.

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