Epistemic cognition (EC) is a field with over fifty years of literature (Greene, Sandoval, & Bråten, 2016). The genesis, development and maturity of EC research may be regarded as a model for a longitudinal mixed methods research design, so I will briefly sketch out that history within the framework of mixed methods theory as described by Cresswell (2009) before relating that to how and why I may adopt certain aspects of this longitudinal design in my own study.
Perry (1970) thought that students’ intellectual and moral development during their college careers may be a result of motivational prompts, that is, through students aligning their present with their future selves. In this way, Perry was a key link between the humanist school (e.g. Maslow, 1954) and the motivational determinists (e.g. Elliott & Dweck, 1988; Markus & Nurius, 1986). Perry’s initial motivational studies were qualitative in design and positivist in epistemology (Perry, 1970). Yet, these initial forays into student development failed to convince Perry of their completeness. He embarked on a series of interviews, and the male-elite-white centredness of his exploratory phenomenology resulted in his method being replicated with females only (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1987) and with mixed gender groups (Baxter Magolda, 1992). Perry’s work is shown in Figure 1 where the initial importance of the confirmatory motivational studies gives way to the more dominant qualitative interviews.
Figure 1. Perry’s sequential explanatory design
The second phase in EC research centred on Schommer’s (1990) paper-and-pencil positivist quantification of EC dimensions that utilised a Likert-type questionnaire. (For completeness, also know that Perry attempted a similar endeavour with proprietary questionnaires, for example his “Learning Environment Preferences Checklist”. But such instruments are not available to the general research public and cannot be included in this survey.) Schommer’s Epistemological Questionnaire (EQ)(1990) had sixty-three items and was reduced to thirty two in Schraw, Bendixen and Dunkle’s (2002) Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (EBI).
Such studies are not technically mixed methods, according to the Greene classification system (cited in Bryman, 2009). However, recent work in EC has seen many studies use the qual –> QUAL pattern, especially in the attempt to validate existing paper-and-pencil instruments in various educational or cultural settings and with how epistemic beliefs interact with other psychological phenomenon. Bråten and Strømsø (2004) used a Norwegian translation of Schommer (1990) as the first component in a three-instrument trial that spanned two data collection periods, (the other two being Dweck’s Theories of Intelligence and Migley’s Personal Goal Orientation). Bråten and Strømsø’s research design is implicitly quan –> QUAN because of their acceptance of the utility of the earlier instruments. Their data collection and analysis aimed to be developments of those questionnaires, and accordingly, their emphasis, that is, their results, focused not on the validation of the instruments but on the zero-order correlations found between the various questionnaires’ items. A similar underlying design is found in Chan and Elliot (2004) who compared the EC beliefs of teachers from Hong Kong, North American and Taiwan using Schommer’s EQ. This time, the focus was on how cultural beliefs influenced EC. Figure 2 describes the implicit quan –> QUAN design in these studies.
Figure 2. Implicit quan–>QUAN Exploratory Design in EC research
The timing of the data collection components was explicitly stated in Perry (1970). Perry realised that the QUAN intentions of a purely motivational study could not answer his precise questions. This intellectual desire supposes a weighting onto the QUAL sessions. There was no attempt to mix methods, per se, and no EC research to date contains a qual–>QUAN design (except Zhang, 1995, whose doctoral disseration comprised the bold sequence). The later studies equally suppose the veracity, assumptions and construct validity of the instruments they use.
All of these designs present ideas for possible robust research designs of studies of EC in the Japanese context. A Perry-esque developmental or expansionist (Bryman, 2009) design would be too time consuming to be practical for a doctoral thesis (Blaxter, Hughes, & Tight, 2006), so the paper would necessarily be limited to a single paradigmatic type. My interest is two-fold: to test the validation of the EQ (Schommer, 1990) in the Japanese university context; and to introduce items that aim to capture cultural specific influences on knowledge beliefs. This interest suggests that an implicit quan–>QUAN design is needed. However, a level of complexity is introduced by any new item I include to cover the cultural aspects. In this case, the first-stage ‘quan’ also includes an element of QUAN–>qual as I interpret the numerical data and statistical implications of that data.
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