The field of epistemic cognition (EC) has been extensively researched since the 1960s (J. A. Greene, Sandoval, & Bråten, 2016). As of 2016, a number of foundational constructs have been established, including include the ontology of epistemological stages (e.g. Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; King & Kitchener, 1994; Perry, 1970) and the existence of particular dimensions in knowledge stability, certainty, the role of authority and the relationship of one’s positioning to knowledge (Baxter Magolda, 1992). Certain questions have also emerged: the role of targeted instruction in domain specific areas (Hofer, 2006); how EC relates to related constructs, such as critical thinking (Felton & Kuhn, 2007) and personal self-authorship (Baxter Magolda, Creamer, & Meszaros, 2010); and how culture mediates the influence of EC dimensions and constructs (Chan & Elliott, 2004; Hofer, 2010).
As little has been studied in the Japanese context, there is a need to investigate—simply—the question of how existing theory fits. It is hypothesised that the extent of EC stage theories exists in Japan but that such a full range, for example using Baxter Magolda’s (1992) sequence, of Absolute, Transitional, Independent and Contextual thinkers will not be present. This claim contains a contradiction that potentially introduces an internal, face, validity threat (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011). It is paradoxical, possibly nonsensical, to claim for a construct’s existence while simultaneously arguing that only a subset of that construct can be seen. This position, however, has precedence in the literature. D. Kuhn (2000) show that over their four-year college career, participants improvement in critical thinking skills was a single standard deviation, which mapped onto EC development of a single stage. Oshima and his team (2006) charted the move from one epistemic position in a Japanese teacher to another one.
Data collection methods
I will create a Liket-like survey instrument based on Schommer (Schommer-Aikins, 2004; Schraw, Bendixen, & Dunkle, 2002) and Chan and Elliot (Chan & Elliott, 2004). Quite possibly, this instrument will include items that attempt to capture factors that I suspect are Japan-specific. Together, these three item sources present many challenges.
Firstly, simply combining items from disparate instruments may introduce incompatibilities within the items. A classic example of this is Hofer’s (1997) attack on Schommer (1989) for including items in her instrument that targeted beliefs about learning, which, according to Hofer, are irrelevant to how one conceptualises one’s beliefs about knowledge. This debate is ongoing (J. Greene, Sandoval, & Bråten, 2016). Prior to piloting the instrument, I must consider precisely which constructs I am targeting and how, if at all, the items are appropriate to that task. Additionally, I must be aware of my inclusion and exclusion criteria for the constructs themselves. This brings me onto the second challenge.
Secondly, although Cohen, Manion and Morrison appear confident in the need to investigate phenomena from the insider’s perspective (Cohen et al., 2011), a question must be asked about this certainty. If EC dimensions are human, they will be relevant to all humanity and not just be a phenomenon that is limited to the Western context. The emic approach, in Japan’s case, would mean that no study is possible at all, based on the evidence that no Japanese researcher has considered studying EC in Japan. Instead, there must, by necessity, be a degree of eticness in that I will bring outside theories into the Japanese context. This proposal, however, introduces many potential issues, not least of all the notion that I may interpret Japanese actions without due reference to the emic possibilities.
This point brings up a major question I need to address between now and the beginning of the thesis is the field of study EC in Japan has be to placed within. Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011) rely mainly upon psychology to address cross-cultural issues. Matsumoto and Yoo (2006), similarly, cite psychology sources only in their dissection of research bias in cross-cultural research. A telling example is in their citation of Allik and McCrae’s (see also Allik & McCrae, 2004) “reverse causation” of how culture impacts on personality (Matsumoto & Yoo, 2006, p. 240). However, sociology and social psychology may also offer frameworks. Gidden’s (1984) structuration, also briefly mentioned by Cohen, Manion and Morrison (2011) but undiscussed as the double hermeneutic, and symbolic interaction (Blumer, 1969) both offer competing conceptions on the how individuals are influenced by their environment.
There are other concerns, but space is limited, and perhaps we can discuss these during the week. For now, myu data collection, as yet undecided in its exact form and content, needs to address these foundational issues. Does anyone have any thoughts on other issues that affect this? Also, I’m in Nagoya this weekend for our national conference. I may not be able to respond in a timely fashion. Please forgive me.
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