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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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The majority of Korean graduate students tested tended to believe in the dominant role of epistemic authorities in their learning such as textbooks or other authoritative figures whom they believe are knowledgeable in an area (e.g., professors). They also showed more simplistic views on the nature of learning than most of the American

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Korean graduate students put more value on students’ innate ability in learning than American students did. The fifth epistemological dimension, i.e., Quick Learning, also showed differences between Korean and American groups, even if the three graduate student groups as a whole tended to believe that learning does not happen quickly. A relatively large portion of Korean graduate students (33% as compared to 2% of American students) still professed that learning happens quickly. Results of this study suggested that differences in personal epistemological beliefs exist among different cultural groups despite similar age and educational level. Also, these differences seem to be influenced by and embedded in a system reflecting specific socio-cultural and educational environments.

One explanation of Korean students’ stronger beliefs about certain and simple knowledge is that their beliefs may have been heavily influenced by school cultures that encourage docility and respect for authority, foster building consensus over controversial issues, but discourage assertiveness and raising “why” questions regardless of students’ academic performance. The Korean students’ beliefs may also be related to the lack of exposure to multiple sources of information and knowledge. Most often, they rely on authority figures such as parents or well-known scientists for information.

Epistemological Beliefs Measurement Various methods have been used to measure an individual’s epistemological beliefs ranging from a personal interview method to questionnaires (e.g., Belenky et al., 1986; Bendixen, Schraw, & Dunkle, 1998; Jehng et al., 1993; Perry, 1970; Schommer, 1990; Schraw, Bendixen, & Dunkle, 2002). Currently a number of reliable questionnaires

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nature of knowledge and knowing.

The Epistemological Questionnaire (EQ) developed by Schommer (1990) has been especially important in recent research. Schommer described five beliefs pertaining to 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 endowed at birth). Currently, there is debate as to whether Schommer’s five beliefs constitute genuine epistemological dimensions (Hofer & Pintrich, 1997), but especially the omniscient authority and innate ability dimensions.

Schommer (1990) found factor-analytic evidence for four of the five beliefs, but failed to identify an omniscient authority factor. This exclusion is important given that researchers have postulated a relationship between beliefs about authority and skilled reasoning (Curtis, Billingslea, & Wilson, 1988; Damon, 1988; Jehng et al., 1993; Perry, 1970;

Presley, 1985).

Bendixen et al. (1998) conducted the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (EBI) to measure adults’ beliefs about Certain Knowledge, Simple Knowledge, Quick Learning, Omniscient Authority, and Innate Ability. The EQ and EBI were analyzed in two ways (Schraw et al., 2002). The first was a principal factor analysis with oblique rotation (i.e., correlated factors). The second was a principal factor analysis with varimax rotation.

Because both oblique and varimax rotations led to highly similar solutions in which none

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al. reported only the principal factor analysis with varimax rotation solutions.

The findings suggested four conclusions: (a) the EQ and EBI instruments differ with respect to the number of factors they yield and the degree to which these factors match theoretical predictions, (b) differences exist with respect to the proportion of sample variance explained by the two instruments, (c) the EBI had better predictive validity than the EQ when correlated with a test of reading comprehension, and (d) the EBI had considerably better test-retest reliability than the EQ.

One problem in Schommer’s EQ is that it consistently yields a large number of potentially interpretable factors, each accounting for a relatively small share of total sample variation. A second difference concerned the proportion of sample variation the two instruments explained. The first five factors on the EQ explained 35.5% of total variation, while the EBI explained 60% of total sample variation. A one-month replication led to values of 39% and 64% respectively. A third difference concerned construct validity, or the degree to which the two instruments, and their individual factors, measured the hypothesized constructs. One interpretative problem of the EQ is that it generated two Certain Knowledge factors. In comparison, the EBI did not have any obvious interpretive problems in that each of the factors was conceptually distinct and all of the items that loaded on individual factors were related logically to the relevant construct. The EBI also had better predictive validity than the EQ. Four of the five factors from the EBI were modestly, though significantly, related to the test of reading comprehension. In contrast, none of the EQ factors was significantly correlated with total reading comprehension scores. The final difference was that the EBI yielded a close

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This indicated the EBI is more reliable over time than the EQ. For these reasons described above, the Bendixen et al. (1998) modifications are accepted for this study, and their measurement instrument is utilized in this study.

Summary As a philosophical enterprise, epistemology is concerned with the nature and justification of human knowledge. From a psychological and educational perspective, the focus of concern among those studying epistemological beliefs or epistemic cognition is how the individual develops conceptions of knowledge and knowing and utilizes them in developing understanding of the world. This includes beliefs about the definition of knowledge, how knowledge is constructed, how knowledge is evaluated, where knowledge resides, and how knowing occurs (Hofer, 2002; Hofer & Pintrich, 1997).

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. Most research on epistemological beliefs centers on their development or the connection of students’ epistemological beliefs to academic success. This study extends the work in this area by examining the relationship among epistemological beliefs and previously unmeasured outcome variables such as moral reasoning.

Research on the Relationship between Epistemological Beliefs and Moral Reasoning Research studies on the central topics of this study were located through a computer search of the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) database, Dissertation Abstracts International and the University of Georgia Library holdings.

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the preliminary search revealed that there is only a paucity of research directly related to the present research concern. Therefore, a review of literature included studies relating epistemological beliefs to moral reasoning as well as to other various skilled reasoning such as argumentative reasoning, reflective judgment, and complex problem solving.

Approximately 12 studies remained. Techniques described by VanSickle (1986a, 1986b) were used to eliminate obviously inappropriate articles with regard to (a) conceptual and operational definition of all variables, (b) research design, (c) subject characteristics considered, (d) statistical technique, and (e) publication data. As a result of systematic consideration of these factors, eight articles were located for a separate review. Some articles were eliminated due to the small and homogenous sample (Harris, Mussen, & Rutherford, 1976) and the inadequacy of systematic definition of variables, especially between personality and attitudes toward authority (Johnson, Hogan, Zonderman, Callens, & Rogolsky, 1981). These factors were also used for analysis of the studies selected for review.

Because studies (King & Kitchener, 1994) reported that the development of higher-order reasoning such as reflective judgment is a necessary but not sufficient precursor of moral judgment, in this dissertation studies relating epistemological beliefs to moral reasoning as well as to other various skilled reasoning such as argumentative reasoning, reflective judgment, and complex problem solving were not combined.

Therefore, five studies related to the relationship between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning were reviewed initially (Bendixen et al., 1998; Curtis, Billingslea, & Wilson, 1988; Presley, 1985; Rest, Cooper, Coder, Masanz, & Anderson, 1974; Walker,

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epistemological beliefs and higher-order reasoning were reviewed (Bendixen, Dunkle, & Schraw, 1994; Kuhn, 1991; King & Kitchener, 1994).

Studies Related to the Relationship between Epistemological Beliefs and Moral Reasoning The most relevant empirical study on the central topics of this dissertation was Bendixen, Schraw, and Dunkle’s study (1998) on the relationship between epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning. Their study was originally intended to examine the relationships among age, education, gender, syllogistic reasoning skill, epistemological beliefs, and moral reasoning in adults. The subjects were provided with a packet that included a 32-item Epistemic Beliefs Inventory, a 12-item test of syllogistic reasoning, a brief demographic variable information sheet, and the Defining Issues Test (Rest, 1979). Results of the regression analysis showed that the gender variable reached statistical significance, accounting for 12% of sampling variation in P scores (i.e., r =.35). Neither the age nor the education variables reached significance once gender was entered into the equation. Syllogistic reasoning was significant, accounting for 4% of additional sample variation. All but one of the epistemic beliefs reached significance. The order of entry was simple knowledge, certain knowledge, omniscient authority, and quick learning. These variables accounted for 4%, 3%, 4%, and 2% of the sample variation, respectively (i.e., 13% combined), over and above the variation explained by other variables.

These results confirmed the authors’ prediction that specific epistemic beliefs such as simple knowledge were related to P scores once the effects of other variables

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either gender, age, education, or syllogistic reasoning considered separately. Scores high on the simple knowledge, omniscient authority, and quick learning dimensions were correlated negatively with P scores, indicating that higher levels of principled moral reasoning were associated with a more sophisticated, and presumably less conventional, epistemic belief system.

These findings were consistent with those of Walker et al. (1991), who reported that DIT scores increased as epistemic beliefs measured on a unidimensional scale became more sophisticated. Specifically, those receiving a low score on the Walker et al.

scale of epistemic beliefs (i.e., one that reflects a post-relativist world view) scored higher on the DIT. Gender differences were also observed, wherein the correlation between epistemic beliefs and P scores (i.e., an index of post-conventional moral reasoning) was significant for men (r = -.32) but not for women (r = -.20).

The consistent pattern to emerge from the literature is a link, found in several studies, between high level of moral judgment and willingness to resist authority (Curtis et al., 1988; Presley, 1985; Rest et al., 1974). Subjects from Milgram’s pilot study who scored at the stage of personal principle (the highest stage) on Kohlberg’s Moral Judgment Scale were significantly more likely to have disobeyed the experimenter than those who scored at lower stages (Kohlberg, 1969; cited in Presley, 1985). In another study showing a link between moral judgment and resistance, student activists who scored at the highest stages on the Kohlberg scale were more likely to have participated in civil disobedience in the Free Speech Movement (Haan, Smith, & Block, 1968).

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(1974) pointed out that the P-score has been shown to be related inversely to scores on the Law and Order Test. On this particular test, responses were keyed as “Law and Order” if they advocated excessive power to authorities or support of the existing social order at the expense of individual freedoms and civil rights.

More recently, Curtis et al. (1988) and Presley (1985) found that principled moral reasoning scores among adults using the DIT were related inversely to support for authority. The Curtis et al.’s study was originally intended to explore the relations of empathy and socialization to moral reasoning and attitudes toward authority. One hundred five undergraduates completed the empathy and socialization scales of the California Psychological Inventory, the DIT, a questionnaire measuring subjects’ evaluations of different authority figures (public, impersonal and private, personal). The correlations between subjects’ P-scores and evaluations of authority figures were both significant and indicative of an inverse relationship. Furthermore, the effect was more pronounced for impersonal, public authority than for private, personal authority. They reported that the results are consistent with the position that the higher the individual’s level of moral reasoning, the more one tends to view authority in a negative manner.

Also, this result validates Rest et al.s’ (1974) finding that subjects’ P-scores were inversely related to scores on the Law and Order Test.



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