Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Physical Sciences (EBAPS)

Developed by Andrew Elby, John Frederiksen, Christina Schwarz, and Barbara White

Purpose To probe the epistemological stances of students in introductory physics, chemistry and physical science.
Format Pre/post, Multiple-choice, Agree/disagree
Duration 15-22 min
Focus Beliefs / Attitudes (epistemological beliefs, structure of knowledge, nature of knowing and learning, real-life applicability, evolving knowledge, source of ability to learn)
Level Intro college, High school

Sample questions from the EBAPS:

DIRECTIONS: For each of the following items, please read the statement, and indicate (on the scantron answer sheet) the answer that describes how strongly you agree or disagree.

A: Strongly disagree B: Somewhat disagree C: Neutral D: Somewhat agree E: Strongly agree

Tamara just read something in her science textbook that seems to disagree with her own experiences. But to learn science well, Tamara shouldn't think about her own experiences; she should just focus on what the book says.

DIRECTIONS: In each of the following items, you will read a short discussion between two students who disagree about some issue. Then you'll indicate whether you agree with one student or the other

Brandon: A good science textbook should show how the material in one chapter relates to the material in other chapters. It shouldn't treat each topic as a separate "unit," because they're not really separate.

Jamal: But most of the time, each chapter is about a different topic, and those different topics don't always have much to do with each other. The textbook should keep everything separate, instead of blending it all together.

With whom do you agree? Read all the choices before circling one.

(a) I agree almost entirely with Brandon.
(b) Although I agree more with Brandon, I think Jamal makes some good points.
(c) I agree (or disagree) equally with Jamal and Brandon.
(d) Although I agree more with Jamal, I think Brandon makes some good points.
(e) I agree almost entirely with Jamal.


EBAPS Implementation Guide

Everything you need to know about implementing the EBAPS in your class.

A. Elby, Helping physics students learn how to learn, Am. J. Phys. 69 (S1), S54 (2001).
External Resources

The developer has an online paper describing The Idea Behind the EBAPS.

more details
Silver Validation
This is the second highest level of research validation, corresponding to at least 5 of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Student thinking

Studied Using:

  • Student interviews
  • Expert review
  • Appropriate statistical analysis

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The EBPAS questions were developed based on an extensive literature review of other epistemological surveys. The developers synthesized other researchers ideas to create guiding principles, which they used to write the EBAPS questions. The EBAPS was given to pilot subjects, and about 100 community college students who answered the survey and provided their reasoning for each question. The questions were subsequently revised. The reliability of the EBAPS categories was calculated, and results were acceptable in four of five categories. The EBAPS has been given to over 1000 students in high school and introductory university physics courses at multiple-institutions the results published in over eight peer-reviewed publications.


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Download the EBAPS answer key.

Download the EBAPS scoring tool.

Typical Results

Typical scores on the EBAPS for different teaching methods from Marx et al. 2004

Traditional courses had little or no research-based pedagogy. Class time is largely filled with lectures and
demonstrations; slides and videos; and laboratories that follow prescribed instructions, some of which are computer-based. Traditional classes had some group work.

Transitional courses had approximately half of the classroom time devoted to research-based activities. These activities come in several forms including exploratory laboratories, activities modeled after Interactive Lecture Demonstrations, and group worksheets designed to reinforce relevant physical concepts and build numeracy. The other half of the time is lecture-based. 

Learning-centered courses incorporated research- based curricular materials of the kind discussed above in every class meeting, and lecture time is minimized. Each course had traditionally-graded assignments,including several homework sets, quizzes, tests, projects, and a final exam. None of the graded assignments were intended to foster or reinforce students’ epistemologies.

Typical results for high school students from Elby 2001:

The latest version of the EBAPS, released in 2006, is version 5.0.