All research is ultimately as search for new knowledge. This newness should be useful to the general community, however that is defined, but essentially, the newness should be something that the researcher himself wants to know. My interest in epistemic cognition is deeply rooted in my professional life as an educator, but perhaps more importantly, it relates to how I view my own intellectual and moral development. In a nutshell, I want to know how I, myself, can improve.
Looking back over the decade prior to starting this EdD, I realise that I have been motivated by the desire to understand how people learn a foreign language and how that understanding can help develop instructional modes for learning. Particularly, learning English in the Japanese context is aggravated by cultural and linguistic forms that impede the easy adoption of established methods derived from Western educational milieux. The base methodology that informed my work came from the field of instructional design (Branch & Merrill, 2008), yet I consistently felt that its essentially behaviourist approach (Gagne, 1984; Smith & Ragan, 2000) failed to encapsulate much of the socio-cognitive, moral developmental and reasoning skills progression aspects of language learning. It was with great joy that Module 1 introduced me to Perry’s (1970) theories of epistemological development (via Moon, 2005). ED tackles the questions of progress from an entirely different set of assumptions from instructional design. It is also a relatively mature field, drawing mainly on educational psychology, and more recently, from psychological social psychology (Hofer, 2001). Furthermore, possible answers derived from ED may be of immediate and practical use in my daily teaching, materials development and research (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011).
I want to know how best to structure my curricula in order to maximise the potential for language, moral and cognitive growth. I want to know what limits students’ abilities to engage with academic content. I want to know what can be expected of students during their college career. Studies into motivation and demotivation are, I believe, limited in their ability to produce comprehensive answers due to their focus on the individual that fails to address the wider psychological social psychological contexts for learning. Critical thinking research, likewise, suffers from a failure to address stage, domain or social aspects of cognitive engagement. ED, on the other hand, is mature enough to have grappled with all of these (and more) issues and has generated many viable frameworks for investigation (Baxter Magolda, Creamer, & Meszaros, 2010).
However, ED (or its various other nomenclature) is virtually unknown in Japan. Asia has taken up ED research wholeheartedly (for example, an entire volume of Asia Pacific Researcher, 19(1), 2010, was devoted to ED). Before even trying to develop the substrands of questions within ED (e.g., is it domain-specific or general, is it a stage theory or is it independent, what is the precise ontology of stages or positions and so on), ED needs to be studied in the Japanese cultural environment as it is predictable that the particular Confucian/ Shinto combination impacts on the nature of beliefs about knowledge. The exact nature of the ED construct in the Japanese cultural environment needs to be understood.
Although Lingard and Gale (2010) argue that education can be equally well informed by sociological perspectives, a position I am fully in agreement with, the type of research needed for ED has to involve some kind of quantitative methodology, at least initially. This is because the education research environment has to date not accepted the qualitative paradigm fully. Outside of educational policy, the vast majority of research in education in Japan remains within the field of educational psychology. If my research is to have any social validity in Japan (Bentz & Shapiro, 1998; Blaxter, Hughes, & Tight, 2006), I cannot simply ignore the quantitative expectations of my colleagues and wider research environment. My own leanings are towards sociological explorations, but the nature of ED (being partially a branch of cognitive science) and the likely support I can expect to lose should I adopt a purely qualitative approach (Laureate, 2012) force me into utilising a more quasi-experimental design.
The actual question, though, is something that I will try to narrow down over this week through discussion.
Baxter Magolda, M. B., Creamer, E. G., & Meszaros, P. S. (2010). Development and Assessment of Self-Authorship: Exploring the concept across cultures. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing, LLC.
Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in Social Research. Sage Publications. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. http://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004
Blaxter, L., Hughes, C., & Tight, M. (2006). Tight How to research (3rd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.
Branch, R. M., & Merrill, M. D. (2008). Characteristics of Instructional Design Models. Design, 34(Kış), 8–16.
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research Methods in Education. Professional Development in Education (7th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge. http://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2011.643130
Gagne, R. M. (1984). Learning outcomes and their effects: Useful categories of human performance. American Psychologist, 39(4), 377–385. http://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.39.4.377
Hofer, B. K. (2001). Personal epistemology research: Implications for learning and teaching. Educational Psychology Review. http://doi.org/10.1023/A:1011965830686
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2012). The research experience. Baltimore, MD: Laureate.
Lingard, B., & Gale, T. (2010). Defining Educational Research : A Perspective of / on Presidential Addresses and the Australian Association for Research. Australian Educational Researcher, 37(1), 21–49. http://doi.org/10.1007/BF03216912
Moon, J. (2005). We seek it here …. HEA – Subject Centre for Education ESCalate.
Perry, W. G. (1970). Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years: A Scheme. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (2000). The Impact of R . M . Gagné’s Work on Instructional Theory. The Legacy of Robert M. Gagne, 6, 147–181.