Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Karen van der Merwe, Department of Psychology, North-West University, PO Box 1174, Vanderbijlpark, 1900. E-mail:

This study explored views of knowledge and learning held by a sample of 14 Black South African first year university students (age range = 18-24, 50% female). Data was collected by means of semi-structured interviews, group interviews and focus group interviews. The data was subjected to thematic qualitative content analysis. A majority of the participants evidenced a pre-reflective epistemological perspective characterized by the beliefs that knowledge is certain and absolute rather than relative; that the source of knowledge is vested exclusively in authorities external to the self, that learning is quick, and that it mainly involves memorization of facts. However, a few participants espoused more advanced, pre-reflective epistemological beliefs via awareness of bias and the idiosyncratic nature of knowledge. Greater epistemological sophistication was associated with the presence of supportive educational role models such as teachers or parents, and personal characteristics such as determination and inquisitiveness.

Keywords: personal epistemology, African students, views of knowledge, views of learning.

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