Thinking aloud about epistemology in history: How do students understand the Beliefs about History Questionnaire?

Authors

Marcel Mierwald

Maximilian Junius

Abstract

This study aims to explore the cognitive validity of a popular epistemological beliefs self-report instrument used in history education, namely the Beliefs about History Questionnaire (BHQ) developed by Maggioni (2010). The validity and reliability of this instrument were found to be problematic during the quantitative validation of both the original English questionnaire and its foreign language versions. Therefore, we conducted cognitive interviews with four students (all 17 years old) using a German version of the BHQ to gain a comprehensive insight into students’ understanding of the questionnaire and the possible difficulties they experience in answering its items. The analysis of the interviews showed that the cognitive validity of the questionnaire was good. However, some items were found to be problematic because the students showed differences in understanding and difficulties in responding. Furthermore, four overarching problem areas were identified: the complexity of terms; epistemic ambiguity; length and comprehensibility; and irritating references to the school context. In this article, we address these and other difficulties in using the BHQ to assess students’ thoughts about epistemology in history. Finally, possible improvements to the questionnaire and conclusions that can be applied to both research and practice are presented. 

Keywords

Epistemological beliefs, cognitive interviewing, questionnaire, cognitive validity, domain of history, secondary school education

How to Cite:

Mierwald, M., & Junius, M. (2022). Thinking aloud about epistemology in history: How do students understand the Beliefs about History Questionnaire? Historical Encounters, 9(1), 35-57. https://doi.org/10.52289/hej9.103

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  • Published 15 April 2022

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 License