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«A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN EPISTEMOLOGICAL BELIEFS AND MORAL JUDGMENT AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL FOUNDATION FOR MORAL EDUCATION by ...»

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A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN

EPISTEMOLOGICAL BELIEFS AND MORAL JUDGMENT AS A

PSYCHOLOGICAL FOUNDATION FOR MORAL EDUCATION

by

CHANGWOO JEONG

(Under the Direction of RONALD L. VANSICKLE)

ABSTRACT

Contemporary research has examined relationships between individuals’ epistemological assumptions and their judgments about what is right, fair, and good.

However, existing studies primarily have utilized interviews and a questionnaire method with U.S. college students, so less is known about other populations. For this reason, in this dissertation I investigated cultural differences and similarities in the relationships between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning between Korean and U.S. college students.

To accomplish these tasks, the present study utilized a measure of principled moral reasoning (P scores) as the criterion variable. Predictor variables were five epistemological dimensions (simple knowledge, certain knowledge, omniscient authority, quick learning, and innate ability), age, education, gender, syllogistic reasoning skill, grade point average, and academic major. Data analyses included correlations and all possible regressions.

The results of the present study indicated that both cross-national similarities and differences exist in psychological functioning. With respect to similar results, omniscient authority and grade point average were the strongest predictors of Korean and U.S.

college students’ P scores. Also, the analysis revealed that the five epistemological variables explained a substantial proportion of the variance in P scores over and above all other variables.

The present study also revealed differences between the two groups. The results revealed that Korean college students who viewed the nature of knowledge as certain produced lower P scores, whereas U.S. students’ beliefs about certain knowledge had no statistically significant correlations with P scores and accounted for little variance in P scores. On the other hand, U.S. college students who endorsed simple knowledge produced lower P scores, whereas Korean students’ beliefs about simple knowledge had no statistically significant correlations with P scores and accounted for little variance.

The current research may provide evidence in support of a neo-Kohlbergian model of cognitive/moral development in the debate between cultural psychologists and Kohlbergian psychologists.

INDEX WORDS: Moral development, Moral reasoning, Epistemological beliefs, Cross-cultural research, Neo-Kohlbergian approach

A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN

EPISTEMOLOGICAL BELIEFS AND MORAL JUDGMENT AS A

PSYCHOLOGICAL FOUNDATION FOR MORAL EDUCATION

–  –  –

Changwoo Jeong All Rights Reserved

A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN

EPISTEMOLOGICAL BELIEFS AND MORAL JUDGMENT AS A

PSYCHOLOGICAL FOUNDATION FOR MORAL EDUCATION

–  –  –

I owe a great debt of gratitude to many who have provided support, guidance, and participation in this work along the way. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Ronald VanSickle, my major advisor for his guidance, support, and unwavering confidence throughout the entire doctoral process. He has supported this piece of work wholeheartedly, discussing conceptualizations, and providing feedback to multiple drafts.

Also, I would like to thank my dissertation committee – Drs. Larry Hatfield, Richard Hayes, John Hoge, and Seock-Ho Kim. They provided valuable insights into the research proposal and the final dissertation. Their recommendations have clearly improved the quality of this dissertation.

I also owe a very special debt to Dr. Sae-Gu Chung, who has guided my development as a scholar for nearly fifteen years. My gratitude also goes to Drs. Beong Wan Chu, Byung Yul Yu, Beong Choon Park, In Pyo Hwang, and Hang In Kim for their consistent encouragement and support, both academically and personally.

I am profoundly grateful to my wife Eun Young Kwak – the love of my life and my deepest companion. It would be impossible to list the sacrifices that were made in order for me to pursue this doctorate. I also thank my children Hyun Gyu and Hae In who are 6 and 3 years old as I complete my degree.

I would like to dedicate this work to my parents, Tae Hwan Jeong, Jae Soon Park, and parents-in-law, Sung Jong Kwak and Gui Ok Jeong for their unconditional support and love. Nothing would have been possible without them.

–  –  –

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

LIST OF TABLES

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

Statement of the Problem

Research Questions

Significance of the Study

2 LITERATURE REVIEW

Moral Development

Epistemological Development

–  –  –

Reasoning

Variables of Interest

3 METHODOLOGY





Participants

Data Collection Methods

Instrumentation

Data Analysis

–  –  –

Descriptive Statistics

Correlations and All Possible Regression Analysis

Summary

5 DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Introduction

Discussion

Conclusions and Implications for Moral Education

Suggestions for Further Study

REFERENCES

APPENDICES

A THE DEFINING ISSUES TEST

B THE EPISTEMIC BELIEFS INVENTORY

C SYLLOGISMS

D DEMOGRAPHIC QUESTIONNAIRE

E INFORMED CONSENT FORM

F LETTER OF AUTHORIZATION

–  –  –

Table 2.1 The Six Moral Stages (Kohlberg)

Table 3.1 Demographic Descriptions of Participants

Table 3.2 Factor Structure of the Korean Translation of the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (N = 60)

Table 3.3 Factor Structure of the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory

Table 3.4 Factor Structure of the Korean Translation of the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (N = 241)

Table 3.5 Factor Structure of the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (U.

S. Sample N = 191)...58 Table 3.6 Item Analysis of the Korean Translation of Bendixen, Schraw, and Dunkle’s (1998) 12-item Syllogisms

Table 4.1 Means and Standard Deviations for Korean and U.

S. College Students..........66 Table 4.2 Correlation Matrix for the Measure on Korean College Students

Table 4.3 Values of R2 and Cp for All Possible Regressions (Korea)

Table 4.4 Correlation Matrix for the Measure on U.

S. College Students

Table 4.5 Values of R2 and Cp for All Possible Regressions (U.

S.)

–  –  –

Epistemology is an area of philosophy concerned with the nature and justification of human knowledge (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). A growing area of interest for psychologists and educators is that of personal epistemological development and epistemological beliefs: how individuals come to know, the theories and beliefs they hold about knowing, and the manner in which such epistemological premises influence the cognitive processes of thinking and reasoning. This dissertation focuses on the third approach about how epistemological assumptions influence thinking and reasoning processes, focusing on moral judgment.

Contemporary theoretical assumptions about the development of epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning differ somewhat depending on the focus of the inquiry, but they share psychological and philosophical assumptions regarding constructivism and a cognitive developmental perspective. A first basic assumption underlying epistemological and moral development is that by thinking about and acting on the world, human beings construct meaning for themselves (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987). Individuals who take a constructivist view tend to have postconventional levels of moral thinking and a more sophisticated, and presumably less conventional, epistemological system. From a constructivist view, postconventional moral thinking reflects an awareness that rules and laws used to guide and frame moral decisions are actively formulated by the human

–  –  –

& Kohlberg, 1987). Thus rules and laws are understood to be flexible and adaptable to special situations and circumstances. Similarly, adoption of beliefs about constructed knowledge (i.e., a position in which individuals view all knowledge as contextual, experience themselves as creators of knowledge, and value both subjective and objective strategies for knowing) are associated with a more sophisticated, and presumably less conventional, epistemological system (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986).

A second basic assumption of epistemological and moral development is that they fit a cognitive-developmental pattern. Epistemology is an area of philosophy concerned with the nature and justification of human knowledge (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Most research on epistemological beliefs centers on their development (King & Kitchener, 1994; Kuhn, 1991; Perry, 1970) or the connection of students’ epistemological beliefs to academic success (Schommer, 1994). However, across these approaches, epistemological beliefs seem to develop with education from naive beliefs that certain, compartmentalized knowledge comes from a single source to beliefs that evolving, interrelated knowledge from multiple sources must be evaluated (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997). Proposing a sevenstage developmental model that focuses on epistemological cognition, King and Kitchener (1994) claimed that their model is a developmental stage model, because the stages have an underlying organization, are qualitatively different, and appear to form an invariant sequence. Also, mechanisms of developmental change are Piagetian and Kohlbergian; beliefs about knowledge develop through assimilation and accommodation of existing cognitive structures as individuals interact with the environment.

–  –  –

moral judgment is on the collegiate years. In other words, literature on epistemological and moral development focuses almost entirely on college students in exploring the questions of how, when, and where we can promote moral and epistemological development. Because research consistently shows that moral reasoning scores increase in college and at a rate faster than that of the general population (Kurtines, 1982), there has been a considerable amount of research directed toward identifying specific variables of the college experience that contribute to increase in moral reasoning development.

Rest and Narvaez (1991) reviewed research using the Defining Issues Test (DIT) of moral judgment on the effects of college upon moral judgment development. The findings showed that there is a “college effect” – that is, that gains in moral judgment are associated with going to college. They suggested that one of the influences of the college experience is that it provides general intellectual stimulation that causes students to overhaul and rethink the basic ways in which they make moral judgments. The literature on epistemological thinking also has focused almost entirely on college students because collegiate environments emphasize the acquisition, interpretation, and utilization of knowledge (Kuhn & Weinstock, 2002). Schommer (2002a) suggested that it is when students encounter complex, tentative information, which is typical at the college level, that the influence of their epistemological beliefs becomes most noticeable.

Researchers (Bendixen, Schraw, & Dunkle, 1998; King & Kitchener, 1994, 2002;

Kohlberg, 1971a; Perry, 1970) have examined the relationship between reasoning in the intellectual and moral domains, that is, between individuals’ epistemological assumptions and their assumptions about what is right, fair, and good. Kohlberg’s (1971a) scheme of

–  –  –

judgment. Kohlberg claimed that his stages of moral judgment were both parallel and isomorphic to Piaget’s stages. Although such one-on-one correspondence between cognitive and epistemological development might be unlikely, certain intellectual preconditions might be necessary but not sufficient for certain types of epistemological beliefs to be possible. King and Kitchener (1994) also claimed that the development of epistemological cognition (in this case, reflective judgment) may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for moral judgment.

Bendixen, Schraw, and Dunkle (1998) examined the relationships among epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning. They posed two specific questions: (a) whether epistemological beliefs were related to moral reasoning over and above the effects of other variables and (b) which of those beliefs explained the greatest amount of sample variation in performance on the Defining Issues Test (Rest, 1979). The DIT is as an instrument to assess a subject’s level of moral reasoning. Results showed that beliefs corresponding to simple knowledge, certain knowledge, omniscient authority, and quick learning each explain a portion of the variation in performance on the Defining Issues Test. In addition, these findings demonstrated that multiple epistemic assumptions play an important role in young adults’ moral reasoning over and above other social and personal variables.

These studies on the relationships among epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning, however, might have an inherent methodological problem. Existing studies primarily have utilized interviews and a questionnaire method with White college students, so less is known about other populations. There is no study that incorporates

–  –  –

existing theory is based largely on findings from a mainly White, well educated U.S.

population. For this reason, in this dissertation I investigate cultural differences and similarities in the relationships among epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning between Korean undergraduate students and American undergraduate students.

–  –  –



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