Epistemological Development in Pre-Ministry Undergraduates: A Cross-Institutional Application of the Perry Scheme

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Epistemological Development in Pre-Ministry Undergraduates: A Cross-Institutional Application of the Perry Scheme

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Title: Epistemological Development in Pre-Ministry Undergraduates: A Cross-Institutional Application of the Perry Scheme
Author: Trentham, John David
Advisor: Pettegrew, Hal K
Abstract: The intent of this study was to explore the variance of epistemological development in pre-ministry undergraduates across different institutional contexts, using the Perry Scheme as a theoretical lens. Semi-structured interviews were employed in order to elicit information from participants that revealed their personal perspectives regarding their approaches to acquiring, maintaining, and implementing knowledge. Students from three institutional contexts were included in this study: secular university, confessional Christian liberal arts university, and Bible college.

A review of the precedent literature for this research presented foundational biblical-theological and theoretical sources that defined and elucidated the context of this study. The biblical-theological analysis first identified the nature of human knowledge and development within the context of the redemptive-historical metanarrative. Then, two prominent biblical themes that relate specifically to epistemological development were treated: the knowledge of God and biblical wisdom. A thorough review of the Perry Scheme was then provided, including theoretical and philosophical underpinnings, the model itself, and major extensions and elaborations of Perry's model. A final section introduced the "principle of inverse consistency" as a paradigm for interacting with Perry and other developmental theories, from a biblical worldview.

The qualitative research design consisted of five steps. First, the researcher contacted and enlisted students and obtained a Dissertation Study Participation Form from each participant. Second, a customized interview protocol was designed according to the Perry Interview Protocol, in conjunction with the Center for the Study of Intellectual Development (CSID). Third, a pilot study was undertaken. Fourth, one interview was conducted with each participant, and the interviews were transcribed and submitted to the CSID for scoring. Fifth, in addition to the scoring analysis performed by the CSID, the researcher designed and implemented an independent content analysis procedure, including a structured analytical framework of epistemological priorities and competencies. Finally, the scored data and content analysis results were evaluated together, and interpreted by the researcher to yield findings and implications.

Overall, this research observed that epistemological positioning was generally consistent among pre-ministry students from differing institutional contexts. The CSID's stated majority rating for typical college graduates was reflected in each sample grouping-a point of transition between Positions 3 and 4, defined in the Perry Scheme as mid to late "Multiplicity." By certain measures, however, scores among context groups were distinguishable. For example, average scores for secular university students reflected a point very near, but slightly above Position 3, while average ratings among Bible college and liberal arts university students reflected a point essentially midway between Positions 3 and 4. Also, when a filter was applied that eliminated the results of the oldest and youngest sample participants, the liberal arts university grouping reflected a distinguishably higher epistemological position than other groupings.

Evaluation of the research interview data according to the researcher's structured framework of epistemological priorities and competencies yielded findings that were consistent overall with the variations of levels of epistemological positioning as reported by the CSID. In addition, numerous prominent themes emerged from analysis of interviewees' articulations that were identified as bearing relevance to participants' epistemological maturation. Finally, the impact of effects of differing social-academic cultures on pre-ministry undergraduates' epistemological perspectives and maturation were examined. Evaluation of these themes and environmental conditions served to highlight numerous conformities as well as significant distinctions among pre-ministry students from differing institutional contexts.

URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10392/4102
Date: 2012-12-14

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