University students’ epistemic profiles, conceptions of learning, and academic performance

Kirsti Lonka (Corresponding author), Elina Ketonen, Jan D. Vermunt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    12 Citations (Scopus)
    30 Downloads (Pure)


    University students’ epistemic beliefs may have practical consequences for studying and success in higher education. Such beliefs constitute epistemic theories that may empirically manifest themselves as epistemic profiles. This study examined university students’ epistemic profiles and their relations to conceptions of learning, age, gender, discipline, and academic achievement. The participants were 1515 students from five faculties who completed questionnaires about epistemic beliefs, including a subsample who also completed a questionnaire that included conceptions of learning. We measured epistemic beliefs: reflective learning, collaborative knowledge-building, valuing metacognition, certain knowledge, and practical value. First, we analyzed structural validity by using confirmatory factor analysis. Second, we conducted latent profile analysis that revealed three epistemic profiles: Pragmatic (49%), reflective-collaborative (26%) and fact-oriented (25%). Then, we compared the conceptions of learning across the profiles as well as demographic information, credits, and grades. The profiles’ conceptions of learning varied: The reflective-collaborative group scored high on conception of learning named “construction of knowledge.” Its members were more likely to be females, teachers, and mature students, and they had the highest academic achievement. The fact-oriented group (mostly engineering/science students) scored highest on “intake of knowledge.” The pragmatic group scored highest on “use of knowledge:” During the second year, their academic achievement improved. In sum, the epistemic profiles were closely related to conceptions of learning and also associated with academic achievement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)775-793
    Number of pages19
    JournalHigher Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date4 Jul 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    We are grateful to the Jenni and Antti Wihuri Foundation for supporting the sabbatical leave of the first author. We are also grateful for projects funded by the Academy of Finland (308352; 318353) and Finnish Strategic Research Council (327242) as well as mobility funding for the first and second author provided by Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki to spend time in Wolfson College, Cambridge, UK. We thank the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education for facilitating the third author’s research time to contribute to this paper and host the first and second authors during their study leave at Cambridge.

    Publisher Copyright:
    © 2020, The Author(s).

    Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Academic achievement
    • Academic performance
    • Approaches to learning
    • Cluster analysis
    • Conceptions of learning
    • Confirmatory factor analysis
    • Engineering education
    • Epistemic beliefs
    • Epistemic cognition
    • Epistemic profiles
    • Higher education
    • Latent profile analysis
    • Teacher education
    • University students


    Dive into the research topics of 'University students’ epistemic profiles, conceptions of learning, and academic performance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this