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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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In summary so far, studies that used cognitive developmental approaches in researching moral development revealed that the deep structure that underlies and operates on morally problematic situations tends to be similar, whereas studies that used psychosocial approaches showed the importance of cultural factors (e.g., interpersonal relationship oriented) in moral development. On the former part, the findings of studies on moral development affirmed the proposition that moral judgment cannot be directly inferred from cultural ideologies (Moon, 1994; Park & Johnson, 1984; Kim, 1998). A prevalence of group-oriented rather than individualistic attitudes, profound commitment to interpersonal relationships, and the ideological emphasis on adult authority and status by virtue of holding positions of authority were not evident in moral judgments made by the Korean children, adolescents, and adults. However, Hong’s (2001) empirical study

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perspective of others (Selman, 1980), Korean young children in a culture where relationships are emphasized can develop easily the ability to differentiate and coordinate the social perspectives of self and others. The finding suggests that psychosocial development in group-oriented cultures such as Korea differs from development in individualistic cultures such as the United States.

Moral Development Measurement The measurement instrument devised by Kohlberg (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987) presents a series of moral dilemmas and asks probing questions that attempt to identify the moral stage represented by the individual’s underlying moral reasoning process.

Rest’s (1979) Defining Issues Test (DIT) instrument also presents a moral problem, but then lists twelve statements and asks the subject to rank the relative importance of each of the statements. The frequency and quantity of stage responses identify an individual’s moral stage with a separate index to represent the proportion of higher-level moral reasoning. Thus, Rest’s (1979) DIT instrument asks the individual to assess the relative importance of statements indicative of a moral judgment level rather than produce the statements that would identify the person’s use of a particular level of moral reasoning as Kohlberg’s (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987) instrument requires.

It is important to note that Kohlberg viewed moral development as a progression of qualitative and quantitative changes in cognitive structure that relied upon or utilized an evolving representation of morality. A recognition instrument such as Rest’s DIT, although useful, does not necessarily precisely ascertain a subject’s underlying moral structures. Rest (1979) would argue that his identification of moral stage is sufficient,

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principled moral considerations in making a decision about moral dilemmas” (Rest, 1990, p. 4.2).

For the purposes of the present research, the intent is to investigate various potential influences on higher-stage moral development, rather than identify influences on each individual’s precise stage of moral development. Thus, the DIT is sufficient to establish a baseline for principled moral reasoning and to investigate variance related to epistemological beliefs and other critical variables such as age, education, gender, and basic reasoning skills.

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question the privileged place of interview data, dependent on conscious understanding, over recognition data, dependent on implicit understanding (Rest, 1986; Rest et al., 1999) By requiring participants in research to construct verbal arguments for their moral choices, and to credit someone only with cognition that they can articulate and defend, Kohlberg placed a verbal constraint that credited people with only understanding what they could explain. In short, an inherent problem in any production task such as that used by Kohlberg is that a subject is not credited with an idea unless the subject explicitly and articulately verbalizes the idea. Rest et al. believe that this is one reason why there is so little empirical evidence for Stage 5 and 6 reasoning using Kohlberg’s scoring system.

One advantage of the recognition task of the DIT is that postconventional thinking is not scored so rarely as in the Kohlberg interview.

In any recognition task such as that used by the DIT, on the other hand, there is the inherent problem that subjects can rate items and put check marks down next to items

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DIT includes an internal reliability check. Further, Rest also has an internal consistency check in the DIT to determine if subjects are randomly responding without attending to any item feature. For the two reasons described above, Rest’s (1979) modifications are accepted for this study, and his measurement instrument is utilized in this study.

Summary The theories underlying the present study are derived from Kohlberg’s Six Stages Theory of Moral Judgment Development and the neo-Kohlbergian approach to moral thinking. Kohlberg (Colby & Kohlberg, 1987) was a leading figure in the study of moral judgment development, and his research has dominated this field of study for decades.

His work centered around the formulation of a stage theory of moral judgment development that has the following essential features: (a) Moral judgment is a component of morality. How a person reasons in a moral dilemma determines his or her morality; (b) Moral judgment is stage-like. It develops like climbing a staircase, one step at a time, with no stage skipping or reversal; (c) There are six stages of moral judgment, culminating in two postconventional stages that are philosophically appropriate. The major developmental event of adolescence and adulthood is the shift from Conventional stages to Postconventional stages; (d) The moral stages are universal; (e) Stage development is based on concepts of justice.





Rest (1979) used the DIT instrument to accumulate empirical evidence to make new claims and substantial deviations from Kohlberg’s theory while retaining some of the basic tenets. Two important ideas retained are: (1) in moral cognition, individuals are capable of actively constructing moral epistemology; and (2) moral judgment

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involving mostly the shift from conventional thinking to postconventional thinking. He disagrees, however, with Kohlberg’s claim that development proceeds through a stepwise sequence of internally consistent stages. He holds instead that individuals simultaneously use reasoning of many types and that an adequate description of an individual’s moral judgment must include a quantitative account of the proportion of each type rather than a global designation for the person. He states that “people use various organizations of thinking, are somewhat inconsistent, and that the kind of logical organization they bring to a problem is considerably influenced by the particular content and properties of the problem” (Rest, 1979, p. 257).

Both Kohlberg (1971a, 1981, 1984) and Rest (Rest et al., 1999) agreed on the individual’s construction of moral epistemology. Kohlberg proposed that the basic categories of morality (such as “justice,” “duty,” “rights,” and “social order”) are selfconstructed by the individual. Rest suggested that in moral cognition, individuals are capable of actively constructing moral epistemology. However, they did not postulate that epistemological beliefs such as constructivist epistemology and objectivist epistemology are related to moral judgment development in important ways. This study extends the work in this area with the recognition that an important but rarely discussed variable contributing to moral reasoning may be students’ epistemological assumptions about the nature of knowledge and knowing.

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Epistemological Theories: An Introduction and Overview According to Hofer and Pintrich (1997), epistemological beliefs refer to individuals’ conceptions about the nature of knowledge and the nature or process of knowing. So far, psychological research on epistemological beliefs and reasoning has addressed six general issues: (a) refining and extending Perry’s (1970) developmental sequence, (b) developing more simplified measurement tools for assessing such development, (c) exploring gender-related patterns in knowing, (d) examining how epistemological awareness is a part of thinking and reasoning processes, (e) identifying dimensions of epistemological beliefs, and, most recently, (f) assessing how these beliefs link to other cognitive and motivational processes.

In all this research there is very little agreement on the actual construct under study, the dimensions it encompasses, whether epistemological beliefs are domain specific or how such beliefs might connect to disciplinary beliefs, and what the linkages might be to other constructs in cognition and motivation. However, Hofer and Pintrich (1997) noted that since the mid-1950s, there have been three simultaneous and intersecting lines of research which cut across the six general issues. Led by the initial work of Perry (1970), most researchers in the field have posited models that are to some degree structural, developmental sequences. One group has been largely interested in how individuals interpret their educational experiences (Baxter Magolda, 1987, 1992;

Belenky et al., 1986; Perry, 1970, 1981). Perry pioneered these endeavors with a sample that was almost entirely male; in response, Belenky et al. investigated “women’s ways of knowing” with an exclusively female sample. Baxter Magolda, intrigued by gender

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both men and women.

A second group of researchers have been interested in how epistemological assumptions influence thinking and reasoning processes, focusing on reflective judgment (King & Kitchener, 1994; Kitchener & King, 1981; Kitchener, King, Wood, & Davision,

1989) and skills of argumentation (Kuhn, 1991, 1993). The theories and models differ somewhat depending on the focus of the inquiry and the populations studied, but there have been some points of convergence about what individuals believe knowledge is and how it is they know.

The third and most recent line of work has taken the approach that epistemological ideas are a system of beliefs that may be more or less independent rather than reflecting a coherent developmental structure (Ryan, 1984a, 1984b; Schommer, 1990, 1994). These beliefs may influence comprehension and cognition for academic tasks, and this work has been the most concerned with classroom learning.

Schommer (1990, 1993a) suggested that multiple epistemic beliefs were related to adult cognition in several ways. Specifically, Schommer proposed five separate epistemic dimensions corresponding to beliefs about certain knowledge (i.e., absolute knowledge exists and will eventually be known), simple knowledge (i.e., knowledge consists of discrete facts), omniscient authority (i.e., authorities have access to otherwise inaccessible knowledge), quick learning (i.e., learning occurs in a quick or not-at-all fashion), and innate ability (i.e., the ability to acquire knowledge is innate). Schommer’s (1990, 1993a, 1993b) studies indicated that multiple epistemic beliefs (i.e., certain

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differed by gender, and developed in a predictable sequence among adolescents.

Schommer (1990, 1993a, 2002b) conceptualized these five dimensions of epistemological beliefs based on the perspective that one’s beliefs not only about the nature of knowledge but also the nature of knowledge acquisition should be included in an epistemic model. As a consequence, the three dimensions of “certainty of knowledge,” “omniscient authority,” and “simple knowledge” represent one’s beliefs about the nature of knowledge. The two epistemic factors showing beliefs about knowledge acquisition are “innate ability” and “quick learning.” Epistemological Beliefs: Its Cross-cultural Context As I reviewed in the previous section, most of these discussions on epistemological beliefs have been restricted to North American contexts where independent, democratic and pluralistic values are dominate and valued in the society at large and especially in higher education. In contrast to this epistemological orientation in these pluralistic academic and social communities, a few authors have speculated on the potential differences in epistemological beliefs in other cultures (Ballard & Clanchy, 1991; Lee, 1995; Qian & Pan, 2002).

Addressing cultural differences in epistemology, Ballard and Clanchy (1991) compared Australian university students with Asian university students in terms of different approaches toward learning. Ballard and Clanchy argued that most Asian students’ epistemological attitudes toward learning can be placed on the conservative end of a continuum of views with conservative, analytic or extending as three points defining the continuum. In other words, most Australian students in college or postgraduate

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many Asian students were oriented toward the conservative goal for learning. These academic perspectives, Ballard and Clanchy proposed, are related to academic goals and practices in the cultures. Qian and Pan (2002) conducted t-tests to assess the differences between American and Chinese secondary school students in their beliefs about learning and ability. The results indicated that Chinese students had stronger beliefs about simple and certain knowledge and innate ability to learn than the American students.

With respect to the epistemological development in a Korean culture, Lee (1995) examined whether cultural differences in epistemological beliefs exist among three different graduate student groups: Korean graduate students in the United States (Group K-A), American graduate students (Group A), and Korean graduate students in Korea (Group K-K). The results suggested that many Korean graduate students seem to hold different epistemological assumptions from their counterpart American graduate students on all five epistemological dimensions identified by Schommer (1990) and Jehng, Johnson, and Anderson (1993). Even when other demographic variables were controlled, statistical analyses consistently showed that the two Korean graduate student groups held

views on five epistemological dimensions different from the American students:

Omniscient Authority; Simple View of Learning; Certainty of Knowledge; Quick Learning, and Innate Ability.



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