Continuing Dialectic Thought at a Small University Authors: Kelsey J.O. Cowden & Ronald M. Miller, PhD Presenters: Cecilia S.S. Chan & Jacqueline L.W. Lui Brigham Young University - Hawaii
Dialectic Defined • The “… [ability] to ‘enter into thoughts and feelings other than their own.’” (Gong, 2005)
Importance of Dialectic Thought • In The Development of Dialectical Thinking As An Approach to Integration, Basseches (2005) argues that Dialectical thinking … “…reflects adult intellectual development…” “…describes a post-formal level of cognitive organization.” “…presupposes something like what Piaget calls formal operations.”
Dialectics and Gender • It has been shown that females show more dialectical thought than males. • Kramer and Melchoir (1990) suggest that due to greater role conflict females develop more advanced dialectical thinking earlier than males. • By late college years it seems that males have “caught up” with the females (Kramer & Melchoir, 1990).
Dialectics and Major • Basseches proposes that to foster dialectic thought one must present facts so the student can question them. “But while these facts of life are presented as facts to be recognized, they must not be presented simply as facts to be accepted.” (Basseches, 2005)
Dialectics and College Education • Increase in dialectic thought is highly correlated with college education (Berger,2005). “Meeting...students and professors from backgrounds that are not familiar, as well as learning about new ideas and reading books never known before, are bound to broaden a person’s perspective.” (Berger, 2005)
Dialectics and College Education • How to foster dialectical thought “…these institutions must not be content to maintain a discourse simply at the level of "established facts." For example, institutions of higher education must present students with multiple frames of reference-multiple justifiable coherent ways of interpreting facts based on diverging assumptions-that can be contrasted to each other.” (Basseches, 2005)
Dialectics by Ethnicity • Studies have found that easterners tend to display more dialectic thoughts than westerners. Nisbett, Peng, & Choi (2001) found that Americans are more likely to show a polarized view of a conflict while Asians are more likely to find fault with both sides. • Enns (2005) argues that Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Marx were all great dialectic western thinkers.
Hypotheses • Female will show a higher tendency in showing dialectic thoughts than male. • Psychology students will show more dialectic thoughts than other majors. • Seniors will show more dialectic thoughts than Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors. • Asian students will show more dialectic thinking than Caucasian students. No directional hypothesis for Pacific Islanders.
Tendency not Ability • Yet, “ability alone is not enough to ensure ongoing performance. Just as having the ability to play the piano does not guarantee the disposition to do so, having certain thinking skills does not mean that one will use them.” (Tishman, Jay, & Perkins, 1993) • We do not want to measure the ability of the student to think dialectically, but their tendency toward it.
Instruments Utilized • Two approaches of the instrument utilized by Peng & Nisbett (1999) 1) Open-Ended: Participants were asked to provide an open-ended response for 2 short issues 2) Pre-fabricated: Participants read two “pre-fabricated” arguments and were asked which was more persuasive and which they liked more
Section 1: Open-EndedSample Issue “Kent, James, and Matt are college juniors. They are feeling very frustrated about their three years of routine tests, paper assignments, and grades. They complain that going through this process has taken its toll, undermining the fun of learning. How did it happen and what should they do? (Please include the origin and resolution of the problem.)”
Section 1: Open-Ended Categorizing the Data cont. • A group of student researchers read through each response and categorized each response as Dialectic or Non-Dialectic based on the criterion in the next slide. • These student researchers were not given any demographic information with the responses
Section 1” Open-EndedCategorizing the Data • Dialectic response requirements (a) “addressed the issues from both sides” (b) “attempted to reconcile the conflicts by compromising” (Peng & Nisbett, 1999) • Dialectic responses usually attribute the cause of the problem to multiple sides of the issue
Dialectic Answer “Hypothesis 1: They did not have a plan to begin with and have lost sight of their goal. Response : They should reevaluate their current situation and decide whether or not to continue in their present course or make a change. Hypothesis 2: The system has failed them and they have discovered at this later point in time that this is not the education they would like to have pursued. Response : Same as first response.” Non-Dialectic Answer “They have not been thinking outside the box. True learning comes from not worrying so much about grades, but breaking the monotony.” Section 1: Open-EndedSample Responses “Kent, James, and Matt are college juniors…”
Dialectical argument against Aristotle’s assumption Aristotle believed that the heavier a body is, the faster it falls to the ground. However, such an assumption might be false because this assumption is based on a belief that the physical object is free from any influences of other contextual factors (“perfect condition”), which is impossible in reality. Suppose that we have two bodies, a heavy one called H and a light one called L. If we put two of them in two different conditions, such as H in windy weather (W) and L in quiet weather (Q), now what happens? Well, the weights of the body, H or L, would not make them fall fast or slow. Instead, the weather conditions, W or Q, would make a difference. Since these kinds of contextual influences always exist, we conclude that the initial assumption must be false. Non-Dialectical (Galileo’s) argument against Aristotle’s assumption Aristotle believed that the heavier a body is, the faster it falls to the ground. However, such an assumption might be false. Suppose that we have two bodies, a heavy one called H and a light one called L. Under Aristotle's assumption H will fall faster than L. Now suppose that H and L are joined together, with H on top of L. Now what happens? Well, L + H is heavier than H so by the initial assumption it should fall faster than H alone. But in the joined body L + H , L and H will each tend to fall just as fast as before they were joined, so L will act as a “brake” on H and L + H will fall slower than H alone. Hence it follows from the initial assumption that L + H will fall both faster and slower than H alone. Since this is absurd the initial assumption must be false. Section 2: Pre-Fabricated Sample Arguments
Section 2: Pre-Fabricated Scoring Responses Section 1: Open-Ended Participants were given 2 points for each response categorized as Dialectic • Total points possible: 4 Section 2: Pre-Fabricated Participants were given 1 point for each time they choose a dialectic argument • Total points possible: 4
Administered Online • The survey was posted online and students were offered either extra credit or ice cream as an incentive.
Major: Psychology: 111 All Others: 83 Year in School: Freshman: 29 Sophomore: 29 Junior: 71 Senior: 65 Ethnicity: Asian: 47 Pacific Islander: 48 Caucasian/White: 87 Home Area: Asia: 36 Pacific: 18 Mainland USA: 84 Hawaii: 49 Gender: Male: 56 Female: 139 Participants Total: 195 students
Hypothesis One Female will show a higher tendency toward dialectic thoughts than male. • Two t-tests (one for each section) were utilized with Gender as the categorical variable.
Gender Female participants did show a stronger tendency toward dialectic thoughts than males did, though the difference is not significant.
Hypothesis Two Psychology students will show more dialectic thoughts than other majors. • One-way ANOVA’s were utilized with Major as the categorical variable.
Major There is a significant difference in Open-Ended, but not in the Pre-Fabricated section. Psychology students scored higher than all other majors in both open-ended & pre-fabricated sections.
Hypothesis Three Seniors will show more dialectic thoughts than Freshmen, Sophomores and Juniors. • Two one-way ANOVA’s were utilized with Year in School as the categorical variable.
Year in School Although the differences are not significant, there seems to be a tendency for dialectic thought to increase with time spent in school.
Hypothesis Four Asian students will show more dialectic thinking than Caucasian students. No directional hypothesis for Pacific Islanders. • Four one-way ANOVA’s were utilized (2 per section) with Ethnicity and Home Area as the categorical variable.
Ethnicity In the open-ended section, Pacific Islander students scored the highest, followed by Caucasian/White students, then Asian students. This is the opposite of our initial hypothesis. In the pre-fabricated section, Pacific Islander students scored only slightly lower than Asians, who scored highest.
Home Area Asia scored the lowest in Open-Ended while Pacific/Hawaii scored lowest in Pre-Fabricated. Differences were not found to be significant. *Hawaii was combined with Pacific due to limited Pacific participants.
Interesting Findings • We investigated the interaction of Home area and Year in School and the interaction of Majors and Year in School. • One-way ANOVA’s were utilized
Year in School—Asia* Asian students show a drop in dialectical thinking in their middle years, but then increased over or almost equal to their freshmen year level. *Home Area
Year in School—Mainland USA* For Open-Ended Mainland USA students do not increase between Freshmen & Sophomore years. For Pre-Fabricated there is a fairly constant increase with time in school. *Home Area
Year in School—Pacific Islands* In Open-Ended Pacific Islanders seem to increase initially but show a decline in their Junior year. In Pre-Fabricated they decline initially but then show an overall increase. *Home Area includes Hawaii
Major - Freshmen Here is a means comparison between freshmen scores by major. Among the five majors shown here, Biology students scored the highest and Secondary Education students scored the lowest in dialectic thinking.
Major - Seniors However, this means comparison between senior scores by major shows that students from Art and Secondary Education improved in their dialectic thinking while business students’ score decreased.
Major - Comparison Freshmen Seniors
Future Research • Further research on the unexpected trends concerning Pacific Islanders and Asians is needed. • Better understanding of how different majors compare could aid in structuring studies to enable dialectic thinking.
Ronald M. Miller, Ph. D. Assistant Professor, Brigham Young University Hawaii firstname.lastname@example.org Kelsey J. O. Cowden email@example.com Cecilia Chan Institutional Planning Analyst, Brigham Young University Hawaii firstname.lastname@example.org Any Questions?
References Basseches, M. (2005). The development of dialectical thinking as an approach to integration. Integral Review, 1, 47-63. http:integral-review.global-arina.org. Berger, K. S. (2005). The developing person through the lifespan-6th Ed. New York, NY: Worth Publishers. Enns, M. (2005). ‘Now I know in part’: Holistic and analytic reasoning and their contributions to fuller knowing in theological education. Evangelical Review of Theology, 29(3), 251-269. Gong, R. (2005). The essence of critical thinking. Journal of Developmental Education, 28(3), 40-40. Kramer, D. A., & Melchoir, J. (1990). Gender, role conflict, and the development of relativistic and dialectical thinking. Sex Roles, 23(9-10), 553-575. Nisbett, R.E., Peng, K., Choi, I. (2001). Culture and systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological Reveiw, 108(2), 291-310. Peng, K., & Nisbett, R. E. (1999). Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction. American Psychologist, 54, 741-754. Tishman, S., Jay, E., & Perkins, D.N. (1993). Teaching thinking dispositions: From transmission to enculturation. Theory Into Practice, 32, 147-153.