Journal Article Analysis

1 January 2017

The article investigated how the connection between knowledge and learning influenced individuals to think about controversial everyday issues. The analysis included identifying philosophical assumptions, explaining practical significance and applicability, and relating assumptions and methodology to class readings. Journal Article Analysis

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An article in the Journal of Psychology investigated how the connection between knowledge and learning influenced individuals to think about controversial everyday issues. The completion of a questionnaire followed by a series of questions about two controversial issues produced the conclusions of this research paper. This analysis of that research identifies the philosophical assumptions behind the research and methodology, explains the practicality of the assumptions, and examines the effect on the research’s applicability. Finally, a relationship with post-positivist thinking is established.

The premise for the research study by Schommer-Aikins and Hutter (2002) engulfed an interest in looking beyond the classroom to see how epistemological beliefs influence the very ordinary people think about contemporary controversial issues. Prior research focused on the development of epistemological beliefs and influence on thinking in academia (p. 7). Accumulating evidence revealed links between epistemological beliefs and higher order thinking. The authors expanded their research to a larger outside population with varying degrees of education, a wide range of ages as well as diverse life experiences.

Most epistemological researchers thought of personal epistemology as a complex, one-dimensional belief (Schommer-Aikins, 2002). Schommer, in earlier studies, conceived of these beliefs as a system of beliefs, which dwelled at different levels of sophistication. The working assumption for the questionnaire was it captured default characteristics of four beliefs. Using the questionnaire she developed, the questionnaire assessed the stability of knowledge, the structure of knowledge, the control of learning, and the speed of learning (Schommer-Aikins & Hutter, 2002).

The authors stated, “Test-retest reliabilities [of the questionnaire] range from . 60 to . 89 for the four factors” (Schommer-Aikins, 2002, p. 10). Previous studies confirmed the predictive validity of the questionnaire. Following completion of the questionnaire, participants answered open-ended questions about two controversial issues. Answers (multiple-choice or yes/no) chosen by the participants required further explanation about why they chose the answer they did.

The authors looked for six specific thinking dispositions (Schommer-Aikins & Hutter, 2002): 1. taking multiple perspectives; . acknowledging the complexity of issues; 3. engaging in flexible thinking; 4. acknowledging the evolving nature of knowledge; 5. questioning omniscient authority; and 6. making decisions in a thoughtful and reflective manner (p. 9). Based on results from previous studies on college students, Schommer-Aikins and Hutter (2002) developed their hypotheses from the assumption critical thinking about controversial issues engages epistemological beliefs. They theorized the less individuals believe in simple knowledge, the more likely they engage in higher order thinking (p. 9).

Stability of knowledge includes issues of the tentativeness of knowledge, so higher order thinking about evolving knowledge and all-knowing authority precludes belief in certain knowledge (p. 9). Their final supposition involves the speed of learning (or how gradually learning takes place). This involves the time dedicated to study, they hypothesize the less individuals believe learning is quick or absent, the more likely they display higher order thinking about reflective thinking (pp. 10). Applicability Research to broaden knowledge, prove a hypothesis, or search for a new dynamic in the acquisition of knowledge contributes to epistemology.

The scientific community has debated the methodology of the attainment of knowledge since Aristotle. Social science, such as the study analyzed here, wants to develop a more engaged relationship between knowledge and practice (Delanty & Strydom, 2003). Conceiving their study on previous research done about the nature of knowledge and the nature of learning that influences thinking, Schommer-Aikins and Hutter (2002) introduced an additional element of contemporary controversial issues encountered in everyday life.

Their research looked to populations outside of academia to support their hypotheses. Generally, they were able to prove a relationship exists between individual beliefs about knowledge and learning and the ability to demonstrate higher order thinking. Education and critical thinking influence these beliefs (p. 16). The nature of knowledge and learning beliefs influence thinking in everyday life. Methodology Kuhn (1996) describes a paradigm as the accepted norm of a science. The standards, rules, and scientific tradition one follows in a particular area of scientific study comprise the paradigm.

Research, such as the one described here, “is a cumulative enterprise, eminently successful in its aim, the steady extension of the scope and precision of scientific knowledge” (p. 52). The study provided information that supported the correlation of epistemological beliefs, learning, and higher order thinking. The research supported two of the four proposed hypotheses. None of the epistemological beliefs predicted thinking about omniscient authority or found a correlation between quick learning and time-consuming reflective thinking. The theories not supported warrant further research.

There is not a single rule, however plausible, and however firmly grounded in epistemology, that is not violated at some time or other” (Feyerabend, 2003, p. 81). The inability of the research to support these two hypotheses does not indicate failure, but the possibility of progress in the science (Feyerabend, 2003). More research, possibly encountering a different perspective could clarify the direction the hypotheses should take. The supposed failure to support two of the hypotheses must not lead to abandonment of the research project.

A heuristic approach may resolve the discrepancies between the hypotheses and the research results. Lakatos (2003) expounds that a conjecture, at once refuted can be rescued by an auxiliary hypothesis if normative research continues. Positivism and Post-Positivism From a positivist point of view, this research project is invalid. No observable correlation exists between the hypotheses and the results proclaimed by the researchers. Ayer (2003) explains that the declaration of a proposition is just that a declaration. Positive, observable fact needs to be presented to validate the proposition.

Therefore, the conclusion epistemological beliefs influence thinking cannot be empirically proven. Fortunately, the research study takes place in modern times when hypotheses and ideas expressed do not require concrete observation. Literature research and direct interaction with experimental participants provide evidence of perception. Kant, according to Johnson and Duberley (200) argued, “Our minds are not passive receivers of sense data. Rather we automatically select, limit, organize and interpret our experience of external reality” (p. 65).

People endow the world with meaning, so research as presented above has validity to increase understanding of the world. Conclusion The theory behind the Journal of Psychology article theorized a relationship existed between epistemological beliefs and learning and the way people think about everyday controversial issues. Prior epistemological belief research conducted on college students confirmed advanced development of knowledge influences thinking about academic issues. “The effects of epistemological beliefs are most obvious in higher order thinking” (Schommer-Aikins & Hutter, 2002, p. ).

The authors wanted to produce evidence that is more convincing by conducting research by measuring epistemological beliefs independent of academics and the opportunity of participants to think about issues in their lives as opposed to issues provided by a researcher. The researchers recruited 174 volunteers from a variety of ages, professions, and life experiences. After completing a questionnaire and answering weighted questions, evaluation of the beliefs and thinking of participants produced somewhat mixed results. The study supported two hypotheses and two were not.

The belief in the complexity of knowledge provided multiple perspectives, more flexible thing, and higher order reflective thinking as predicted. The study revealed the critical role the nature of knowledge and learning plays in everyday thinking. Following the discussion of the study, the analysis explored relationships between this study and readings required for the class PHL717/Constructing Meaning. Research provides a means to develop knowledge into practice. As Kuhn explained research begins with a paradigm and proceeds to support, refute, or expand on the known. The discovery of unexpected results produces a paradigm shift.

According to Feyerabend, the probability of finding fault with a presumed rule is inevitable but does not mean the research has failed. This study does not fit with the positivist view of scientific research because of lack of empirical evidence, as explained by Ayer. Modern philosophers, such as Kant, are open to evaluating and contemplating ideas and concepts without the necessity of observable phenomena. The ability to find parallels in the research study and theories presented by the philosophers in the readings provided an excellent opportunity to understand some of the concepts.

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