INTRODUCTION TO THE PROBLEM
Description of the Problem
The foundations of one’s life arguably come from the worldview that one develops throughout his or her lifelong journey. It seems apparent that a person’s initial worldview is developed early in life from a combination of sources. These sources may include: a) innate knowledge and behaviors; b) introspection; c) observation of intimate relations, social structures and the physical world; d) the teaching and indoctrination of parents and peers; and even e) the meta-narratives and organizational structures handed down by one’s culture. In educational theory, different theorists tend to place different emphases on these sources. Yet, it is generally recognized that a part of the learning process is the integration of one’s day-to-day observations and ratiocinations with one’s currently active worldview. Ideally, childish thinking develops into mature thinking–and mature thinking develops into critical thinking. And while critical thinking is important in immediate problem solving, it may be even more important in establishing an accurate and foundational worldview.
A person’s worldview plays a crucial role in their navigation of life. Most presumptions in life are based on the person’s current active worldview. This current worldview provides paradigms and filters that govern their thinking. A person’s worldview may also lead them to prematurely dismiss available evidence, avoid possible considerations, or even eliminate potential avenues of thought. Yet, hopefully, a person’s worldview is a dynamic thing that is available for appropriate adaptation and augmentation as they confront reality and integrate life. For some, this confrontation is limited to a subconscious level and is motivated only by brute instinct for survival. Yet, for most, this confrontation also includes volitional and cognitive choice.
Today, many educators realize the importance of, and the variable and subjective nature of one’s worldview. For many instructors, the goal of education today is neither directed at promoting a certain worldview nor suggesting that one’s worldview should be ignored or deemed irrelevant. Rather, the goal has become the continual and critical maturation of that worldview through interaction with the physical, cultural, social and introspective world in which we live. While philosophers and educators may argue over the nature of truth and the proper definition of knowledge (e.g. whether it is dispensed, discovered or constructed), few serious educators deny the need to live within reality. The goal of education is to prepare the student to operate within the world as it actually exists or as it potentially might become with man’s intervention. This arguably requires a worldview that closely approaches both correspondence and coherence with reality. Achieving such a worldview becomes more difficult when we consider the broad and multidimensional nature of the concept. Although sometimes overlapping, each of the dimensions (including those defining the nature of religion, truth, learning, mankind, and self-identity) must cohere to effectively formulate an integrated whole.
Much of today’s educational research looks for social and cultural connections with our adopted worldview. Such research is helpful in describing the various worldviews that have developed over time and in addressing how to deal with the resulting clash of foundational beliefs. Other research may attempt to evaluate the physical and psychological capabilities of the student. However, there has been little exploration into the formation and development processes that lead to the myriad of worldviews present today. Is worldview integration (at least on a cognitive and volitional level) supported or hindered by any particular traits or characteristics? Is the process foreclosed by the existence of certain types of operational beliefs that have already been incorporated into one’s worldview? If so, are these beliefs (essentially filters) capable of being temporarily disregarded or removed? Should education make a concerted effort to incapacitate these filters long enough to allow for volitional and critical worldview integration to occur?
Despite the clear importance of one’s worldview, it seems apparent that some people never give serious thought to these underlying foundational beliefs. For many educators, simple observation of the thoughts and actions of their students bears this out. In some cases, people seem content to simply accept the worldview and assumptions handed down to them by others. This observation is borne out in the identification of concepts such as dualism (Perry, 1970) and absolutism (Kuhn, Cheney & Weinstock, 2000) within the field of personal epistemology, and by the concept of identity foreclosure (Marcia, Waterman, Matteson, Archer & Orlofsky, 1993) within the field of self-identity formation. Other people appear willing to live with a worldview that does not quite match reality or they simply do not believe that integration with reality is possible or within their personal capabilities. This is reflected in the concepts of multiplicity (Perry, 1970) within the arena of personal epistemology, and identity diffusion (Marcia, et al., 1993) within self-identity formation. Still others claim no need to engage in continuous integration–their worldview is complete with no need for further consideration. Yet, for these people, if they are correct, additional investigation and integration should simply confirm their success.
These resistant types may have some traits in common and may give us some clues concerning what encourages or discourages worldview integration. Presuming that their resistance is not simply due to willful obstinance, one might infer that discouraging factors include the existence of false beliefs within their current operational worldview (which beliefs might be modified by critical integration), a lack of motivation, a system of impotent epistemic beliefs, or even a perceived lack of capacity. Lack of motivation might derive from a number of sources. For example, a lack of vitality or satisfaction with life might contribute. Yet, on the other hand, such a lack of vitality and satisfaction with life might simply be the result of a life lived without proper integration. Likewise, one’s epistemic beliefs could lead to a vicious cycle where the integration process is not deemed valuable or feasible. If truth is ultimately unknowable or has no utility in life, or if the individual has no perceived personal competence in discovering truth, these beliefs will affect one’s motivation to engage the process.
Those who are willing and vigorously engaged in worldview integration may exhibit certain traits. They may possess certain worldview beliefs (epistemic or religious) that encourage integration and may have developed a propensity to be receptive and pursue learning through intrinsic goals or forms of motivation. These people may have simply developed an internal sense of wonder, a zest for discovery and awe for life. This may be akin to the idea of intrinsic motivation in motivational theory or identityexploration when dealing with one component of a person’s worldview – self-identity (Marcia, et al., 1993). Either way, an understanding of these traits would be helpful in promoting a culture of receptive and critical worldview adaptation.
Importance of this Study
The concept of worldview integration seems to parallel, in a grander and more foundational scale, many of the findings in the field of critical thinking and reflective judgment. Noddings (1998) remarks that “closely related to this strong sense of critical thinking are the notions of worldview and habits or attitudes internal to the thinker” (p. 87). Here, theorists have investigated the factors that influence one’s willingness to engage in critical or reflective thinking and the methodology used in dealing with ill-structured (ambiguous and controversial) issues (King and Kitchener, 2002). Yet, one wonders if critical thinking on a particular issue may be held hostage by the person’s current operational worldview. Are attempts to develop critical thinking skills dependent as much upon proper worldview integration as they are on the development of methodological or metacognitive strategic skills? Or, on the other hand, as Noddings (1998) asks, can proper critical thinking skills “see beyond isolated arguments and atomistic bits of those arguments to networks of thought and the worldviews of both opponents and self?” (p. 87). Siegel (1988) suggests that:
Critical exchange thus appears more a matter of dialogue between opposing perspectives [worldviews] than a series of atomistic criticisms and deflections. . . . And it is Socratic in its dictate that the critical thinker should “know herself”; that is, should actively seek out and question her deepest beliefs and commitments, and challenge them with all the energy she devotes to the challenging of beliefs and commitments she does not hold. (pp. 12-13).
If so, the concept of worldview integration is ultimately of great concern. Not only is one’s willingness to participate important, but so are the existing beliefs that regulate the process. Thinking within a network of faulty and unconsidered worldview beliefs may appear just as critically appropriate to that practitioner as the thinking of someone operating from within a properly considered worldview. Studies within the field of critical thinking may be helpful in anticipating those traits that support critical worldview integration. Here, research has recognized an interaction between the exercise of critical thinking and both intrinsic motivation and personal epistemology (Kuhn, 2001). Kuhn further suggests that one’s personal epistemology sits on a higher cognitive level than that of simple knowledge–or even the next higher level of strategic metacognition. If so, it would make sense that one’s epistemic beliefs become a foundational worldview issue–one that controls and directs both metacognition and simple cognition. Thus, it becomes a hypothesis of this study that both intrinsic motivation and personal epistemology will also be found as defining traits within the broader realm of worldview integration.
If Kuhn (2001) is correct, the failure to integrate and critically consider one’s worldview directly limits and sets boundaries for what one can accomplish through normal cognition. Therefore, we need to carefully and continuously reassess our operational worldview. In order to help those who struggle to do so, we need to discover what factors and developable traits may encourage such engagement and discourage a lapse into resistant positions. For those who are active, we need to understand what factors may encourage them to continue. Eventually, we will want to understand what causes some people to recognize contradictory worldview attributes in one area of life, but to ignore or accept such contradictions in other areas such as religion (Montgomery, Sandberg and Zimmerman, 2005). We also need to work toward understanding what factors will help students develop a reflective and critical methodology and epistemology, rather than leaving our students in the extremes of black and white or relativistic modes (Dale, 2005).
On a more specific level, as one embracing an evangelical Christian worldview, I am concerned with the level of critical worldview integration engaged in by some Christians. This study may point out some trends and associations between this and other religious worldviews and other worldview components. Do Christians arrive at their faith without thought or simply through the indoctrination of others? Does an epistemology of revealed truth preclude epistemological maturity? Are Christians afraid of participating in critical worldview integration out of a fear that God’s truth is somehow false or cognitively unattainable?
Although this study does not focus on the self-identity component of one’s overall worldview (rather we focus on the religious and epistemological components), the field of personal identity formation exhibits both some similarities and some important differences with worldview integration. In general, personal identity theories focus only on the worldview component investigating the nature, and the unique and individual characteristics of the self. While originally developed from Erikson’s (1950) developmental stage of identity formation and the navigation of an identity crisis, later theorists have suggested a series of alternative positions that a person may occupy on the road to completing the task of identity achievement (Marcia, et al., 1993). In the identity–foreclosure position, the person is content to simply rely on the directions and authority of others. In the identity–diffused position, the person retreats or shrinks from making choices or commitments regarding self-identity. In the moratorium position, the person has not yet reached identity–achievement, but is actively struggling through an ongoing crisis to achieve this final position. Thus, there are clear similarities between these positions and the possible variations describing one’s engagement in worldview integration. In addition, in Chapter 4 on personal epistemology, I will call the reader’s attention to the similarities between these positions and those of William G. Perry (1970). Research has also suggested the possibility of some interaction and correlation between personal identity formation and personal epistemology ( Krettenauer, 2005).
Yet, despite the similarities with identity formation theories, worldview integration is a never-ending process and arguably requires a more persistent form of motivation than simply a goal to complete an Eriksonian psycho-social task to reach identity–achievement. Further, even if a true and operationally effective self-identity is achieved, worldview integration understands that this is only one component of a person’s total worldview. Many other components will still require integration with this forming identity. Worldview integration becomes a concept where arguably, by its very nature, those who believe they have completed the task simply exhibit a misunderstanding of its nature.
This study is merely an early, but necessary, step in the direction of understanding worldview integration. It seems intuitive that the concepts of motivation, vitality and satisfaction with life have an influence. It also seems evident that our selected religious and epistemological worldview components will affect the process. Yet more needs to be investigated. Which is the horse that pulls the cart? Does worldview integration lead to a sense of well-being, intrinsic motivation and positive epistemic beliefs? Or do intrinsic motivation, a sense of well-being, and positive epistemic beliefs lead us to engage in worldview integration? While an investigation of direct causation is likely beyond the scope and capabilities of this study, simple investigation of differences among the selected samples and correlations between the domains may provide significant direction for further study. Although this exploration has a broad and ambitious scope, the consequences are immense. To date, little work, other than philosophic reflection, has been done.
The underlying purpose of this study is to explore the concept of worldview integration and the volitional processes involved. Yet, more specifically, the overarching research question is as follows:
Are there specific characteristics that are present (or absent) in those who engage in critical and volitional integration of their worldview, and if so, are these characteristics helpful in either predicting a person’s degree of engagement or in encouraging an increase in this activity?
Due to the difficulty of directly observing and measuring such introspective processes and structures, this study will attempt to investigate the concept through an exploration of its relationship with a few domains that may be more easily quantified. These domains consist of two categories of worldview belief (religious worldview and epistemological worldview) and two psychological constructs (motivation to learn and subjective well-being).
By looking at the differences and correlations between certain worldview beliefs and samples of both beginning college students and graduate students, it is hoped that answers to a number of sub-questions may be suggested. These include the following:
1. Are there specific epistemic worldview beliefs that tend to be held by those who express more concern with worldview integration? Likewise, are there specific epistemic worldview beliefs that seem to inhibit worldview integration?
2. Are there specific religious worldview beliefs that tend to be held by those who express more concern with worldview integration? Likewise, are there specific religious worldview beliefs that seem to inhibit worldview integration?
3. Are there corresponding differences and correlations to be found between one’s religious beliefs and their epistemic beliefs?
Beside the obvious correlations and comparisons concerning the participants’ selection of religious and epistemological worldview, this study will also be looking into a few personal or psychological traits such as motivation (using a self-determination theory of motivation), perceived ability or competency in learning, and one’s sense of personal vitality and satisfaction with life. This leads to sub-questions that include the following:
4. Are those who are more intrinsically motivated to learn more likely to engage in worldview integration? Likewise, do those who rely on extrinsic forms of motivation tend to be less engaged?
5. Is there any correlation between one’s engagement in critical worldview integration and one’s sense of vitality or satisfaction with life?
6. Are there corresponding differences and correlations to be found between one’s degree of intrinsic motivation and their epistemic beliefs; their religious beliefs; and their sense of vitality or satisfaction with life?
A few other questions will be analyzed based upon data received concerning family upbringing and the influence of family and others on the participant’s beliefs. For example, are there differences or correlations within the domains among those who were brought up within particular religious beliefs and who have now either accepted or deviated from their parents’ beliefs?
The following are some definitions that are helpful in understanding this research problem. They are grouped within their particular domains.
Worldview – an individual’s commitment to a network of fundamental beliefs about the basic constitution of truth and reality that provides the foundations on which we rely for prediction, explanation, and for making agency decisions in and interpreting and integrating the world in which we exist. This network, which is constantly in process and subject to modification based upon the individual’s dynamic interaction with life, the developed motivations and desires of the heart, and our current operational worldview, may include beliefs that are held consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently and which may be true, partially true or entirely false. An individual’s worldview, which may be expressed through proposition, narrative or behavior, may be dynamically integrated with that of others to form a resulting communal worldview. Due to the inherent limitations of human knowledge, worldviews may validly include components of faith and depend upon our diligence and degree of integration, thereby resulting in an anticipated multiplicity of operational worldviews. (See Chapter 2 where this definition is developed.)
Belief – a mental state formed by the individual concerning what is real in the world, which state includes three components: a) content; b) strength; and c) importance (centrality) (Moreland, 1997, p. 74). Arguably, these states of mind also include a fourth component of d) availability. While Swinburne (2001) points out that a belief may be occurent (currently in conscious view) or standing (capable of being brought to conscious consideration) (p. 38), it also seems that some beliefs may become practically unavailable for conscious consideration over time due to their entrenched nature or constant suppression.
Filter – a component of one’s worldview that helps control the integration process by establishing boundaries for what is plausible and what is not. A filter does not necessarily exclude or block beliefs, but may also establish a propensity to seek out and accept beliefs meeting certain requirements or criteria. A filter may affect the very process of determining what is a valid source or methodology for observation. Filters may affect both cognitive or affective processes and may, over time, become tacit rather than explicit.
Worldview integration – the process of assimilating or accommodating new data into one’s currently existing and operational worldview for the purpose of continually adapting that worldview in and effort to develop a coherent network of beliefs that is in progressively closer correspondence with the reality of the world in which we live. Critical worldview integration refers to the volitional and cognitive form of integration as distinct from the unconscious and involuntary integration sometimes caused by brute necessity in our struggle to survive.
Epistemic (or epistemological) worldview – one of many components of an individual’s overall worldview. This component often overlaps dramatically into a variety of other components, and concerns itself with personal beliefs regarding epistemology and one’s learning capabilities.
Religious worldview – one of many components of an individual’s overall worldview. This component often overlaps dramatically into a variety of other components, and concerns itself with belief in the spiritual or supernatural, the purpose of life, the existence of an afterlife, and the existence of an ultimate absolute being who serves as a supreme creator and arbiter of life.
Evangelical Christian religious worldview – a category of religious worldview that is theistic and believes in a transcendental God, a created world, immutable revealed truth, and source of revelation including both nature and a historical and inerrant Holy Bible.
Epistemology – a branch of philosophy that investigates the nature and origin of knowledge, truth, the process of knowing, sources of knowledge, belief structures, belief formation, justification and warrant (Moser, 1999, p. 237). Its scope may overlap somewhat with both the philosophical disciplines of metaphysics and ethics.
Personal epistemology – This is a term coined by psychology and educational theorist Barbara K. Hofer (Middlebury College) and refers to a person’s complete network of introspective beliefs regarding the nature of truth, knowledge and learning, which beliefs control his understandings and expectations concerning the learning process (Hofer, 2002). Depending upon what dimensions are included within one’s personal epistemology, this term may become synonymous with the term “epistemic worldview.”
Motivation – an act or process of causing or stimulating an agent to act, think or feel in a certain way (Franken, 2002, Woolfolk, 2001). According to Ford (1992), motivation is the organizing pattern of three psychological functions (personal goals, emotional arousal process, and personal agency beliefs) that direct, energize, and regulate agentic goal directed activity.
Extrinsic motivation – a form of motivation where the act is engaged in only because of its anticipated utility in achieving another desired end. Here, there is another future reward in sight beyond the act being engaged in ( Deci & Ryan, 2000).
Intrinsic motivation – a form of motivation that require no external purpose or stimulation and seek the action as a final end and not as a means to another desired end. Here the act is engaged in for no obvious reward except for the accomplishment of that act itself ( Eckblad, 1981).
Subjective well being – A term describing one’s self report of their subjective outlook on life, including the subdomains of satisfaction with life and subjective vitality.
Satisfaction with life – one’s global and subjective assessment of satisfaction with life according to his/her own chosen criteria. Satisfaction with life typically considers more affective aspects than does the concept of subjective vitality (Shin & Johnson, 1978).
Subjective vitality – the positive sense of aliveness and energy that exhibits itself in the form of enthusiasm, animation and vigor for life. It is generally believed to result from feelings of competence, flourishing and being an effective and active agent in the world. (Ryan & Frederick, 1997).
Study Population and Sample
This study will investigate the research problem using a population of entering or lower level college students in California, together with a population of upper level graduate college students in California who have chosen to pursue an advanced degree. Within these two populations, I will use three sub-samples consisting of a) approximately 425 students (mainly freshmen and sophomores) engaged in an entry level (freshman and sophomore) college class at an evangelical Christian institution; b) approximately 80 students engaged in graduate studies at the same evangelical Christian institution; and c) a random e-mail invitation sent to approximately 10,000 active California college students requesting their participation in the questionnaire. From this invitation, it is anticipated that about 3% will participate (a total of 300 students), however it is unknown what proportion of the participants will be freshmen and sophomores versus graduate students. Generalizability will be limited to not only these populations, but also to the geographical limitations of the samples selected within those populations.
Assumptions Implicit in This Study
Obviously, any study investigating factors that might stimulate or promote worldview integration makes a number of important assumptions. These assumptions can be generally divided into foundational (philosophical) assumptions and behavioral (operational) assumptions. Foundationally, I assume that the pursuit of truth is a good and worthwhile pursuit. Additionally, if truth is to have a role in the development of one’s worldview, I must assume both that truth is discernible and that man’s rational skills are valuable and useful in both discerning truth and in the application of truth to our current beliefs in the worldview integration process. I also assume that worldviews are personal belief structures that vary from individual to individual and are subject to change. Any volitional change depends upon the individual agent’s decision to integrate their worldview with the reality present in our world as they discover it. This further requires an assumption that man is capable of exercising his human agency in concert with rational decision making processes.
Additionally, this study assumes a more agentic and cognitive view of learning. Cognitive learning theories normally look at learning as the result of our volitional attempts to make sense of the world ( Woolfolk, 2001, p. 240). The way we cognitively approach this effort influences how and what we learn ( Bandura, 1986). One goal of human learning and edification is to develop the wisdom that comes with constant and appropriate integration of discovered truth with one’s current operative worldview. The object is to achieve a worldview that both coheres with and anticipates and explains the reality of our world. We do not develop a worldview to meet our purpose and goals in life. Rather, we develop our purpose and goals based upon our worldview. Whether we derive our purpose and goals primarily from our own existential being, our culture and society, the physical world, or some outside power is determined by our worldview. Whether the discovery of truth serves as a goal, an unavoidable and insurmountable limitation that must be dealt with, or simply as an obstacle to be avoided or overcome in reaching a desired outcome, is likewise determined by our worldview. Within a given worldview, some purposes and goals are realistic, while others are not.
On a behavioral or operational level, this study also makes a number of assumptions. First, it is assumed that a person can be motivated to change. Without motivation, man is capable of simply ignoring both reality and the dissonance in one’s worldview that normally points to a need to change. Second, it is assumed that there may be aspects of one’s worldview that may, in and of themselves, inhibit change. For example, a current worldview may embrace an epistemology that no truth is absolute. If so, this portion of one’s worldview must itself be modified (or ignored) before another’s person’s claim to truth may have any impact in stimulating change. Third, a person must exhibit some desire to operate using a truthful and realistic worldview before any evidence of a need to change one’s worldview will be acted upon. Finally, I am assuming that a desire to discover and utilize truth typically leads to efforts to make changes based upon these discovered truths, and that the motivation to make these changes can exceed the pull of resistance and the existence of countervailing worldviews within the person’s culture and environment.
This study is also purposefully limited in a number of ways. First, due to the exploratory nature of this study, I will utilize a cross-sectional quantitative approach. Not only does time not currently allow for longitudinal observation, but the purpose of this study is only to measure what currently is and not to see how a person’s willingness to integrate, their style of motivation, or their epistemic and religious worldview change over time.
Second, this study is conducted using quantitative methodology and the analysis of self-reported questionnaire data. Here, there are many studies implicating that the interrelationship between the chosen domains and the idea of critical thinking, worldview integration and other cognitive considerations. Thus the initial concept exploration afforded by qualitative research is likely unnecessary. Nor will financial and time considerations allow for a proper qualitative investigation. While a quantitative approach depends upon participant self-report in an area where participants may not have previously given serious consideration to the factors being measured, such a methodology allows for larger samples and more consideration of statistical correlations and differences in mean. In the event that this quantitative study does serve to clarify issues further, it may become necessary to return to more rich and in-depth qualitative techniques.
Fourth, I have limited this study to investigating the role of a small number of factors in the worldview integration process. Specifically, these are motivation (from a self-determination theory), religious worldview, personal epistemology (with a multidimensional focus), subjective vitality, satisfaction with life, and familial support and upbringing regarding education and religion. These have been selected due to previous research that suggests their influence in volitional cognitive activities such as critical thinking and the selection of intrinsic learning goals. In fact, there may be a myriad of other contributing factors that are not considered here.
Furthermore, I have elected to measure the concept of religious worldview based upon a continuum of increasingly Christian theistic beliefs. There simply are no good ordinal or interval measures that have a proven capability of including all possible religious systems. The chosen test does not, and cannot, delineate religious worldviews such as Buddhism, Shamanism, or new age mysticism. Although participants are also provided a demographic question where they are to select their religious affiliation from a more encompassing list of religious systems, this data will be categorical in nature and of less value in correlational or other inferential analysis.
Finally, this study is purposefully limited to college students. This is done primarily due to its investigation into intrinsic motivation to learn. The available instruments for measuring this concept typically involve asking why the participants are currently engaged in formal education. In addition, it is anticipated that higher levels of worldview integration may be found among those who have volitionally chosen to participate in higher education.
An investigation into worldview integration and the factors that encourage or discourage such engagement is difficult and complex. Yet, the concept is so foundational that any information or leads that we discover may be crucial in pointing us in the right direction for future observation and research. In addition, humility is clearly required whenever we use imperfect human cognitive skills in an attempt to discern the ways of free agents. While we may never be able to require people to fully utilize their God-given cognitive abilities, we may be able to discover and promote avenues that increase our awareness and desire to engage in an appropriate and effective integration process.
With the foregoing in mind, I will begin this study with an investigation into the concept of worldview and one particular area – religious worldview (Chapter 2). Here, I will also propose a possible heuristic model for understanding the worldview integration processes. Within Chapter 3, I will consider a few theological concepts regarding the nature of our initial operational worldview. For this purpose, I will investigate a critical biblical passage, together with the thoughts of a few historically prominent philosophers / theologians regarding the source of our initial knowledge of God. Chapter 4 will consider another area of worldview belief–epistemological worldview. This same concept also incorporates a new and growing psychological domain referred to as personal epistemology that investigates not only beliefs about the nature of truth and learning, but also beliefs about personal capabilities in this area. Chapter 5 finishes off the domains with a discussion of both motivation and subjective well-being. Chapter 6 will then describe the methodology to be used in the study. Finally, Chapter 7 will describe and provide a prospective look at the impending data analysis and its limitations while Chapter 8 will suggest some final conclusions and implications that are expected for both the field of education in general and, specifically, Christian education.
Copyright 2005 Mark E. Henze - BBuilders.org