St. Clair, R. and Mason, L Educational Article Critique
Mason, Boscolo, Tornatora and Ronconi (2013) critically represent naturalism as a worldview in their research. The research focuses on the effects that a learner`s cognitive and motivational traits have on his or her achievements in science. In that case, it looks into epistemic beliefs with regard to development along with justification of knowledge in science, goals, self-efficacy and concept. By focusing on epistemic beliefs, the research can be justified as naturalist in its approach. Most importantly, it states that nothing exists in the universe apart from the natural things, forces as well as the drivers of a kind that is studied by natural sciences. According to Creswell (2014), “a framework is needed that combines the elements of philosophical ideas, strategies, and methods into three approaches of research (pp. 4).
”In that case, Mason and colleagues start by highlighting various knowledge claims before embarking on their research. According to Creswell et al. (2014), the knowledge claims can be known as paradigms (pp. 6). To support naturalism as the worldview in their study, there are two self-beliefs that were examined according to the statement, “the two self-beliefs most investigated in academic motivation research were examined in this study, self-concept and self-efficacy (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 53).” Beliefs can be termed as things of the natural world that make the study fall under the naturalistic school of thought. In fact, the research goes further to investigate the correlation between goal achievement and self-efficacy. It reveals that epistemic beliefs directly influence knowledge and indirectly influence goal achievement.
Most importantly, it was noted that the part played by the epistemic belief dimensions was diversified. Conceptual change came into play when the students, noted to have availing convictions with regard to the nature of knowledge, were easily adjusting their levels of knowledge. It is a naturalistic worldview that enables the authors to apply the mixed method of research that uses both qualitative and quantitative approaches. According to Creswell (2014), mixed approaches are used by researchers to make assumptions and claims on certain pragmatic bases. Mixed approach has used several strategies of inquiry in a research and involves collection of data in a sequential manner in order to fully understand the research problem.
In this research, it was hypothesized that epistemic beliefs could be positively correlated with mastery and performance approach. The problem was that some researches had recorded a negative correlation between the epistemic beliefs and a goal achievement approach. Thus, the researchers have critically highlighted their knowledge gap in regard to the nature of the research and worldview used in their study. Taking into consideration the research conducted by Mason et al. (2013), it can be deduced that only natural things are important, hence making the approach a naturalistic worldview.
According to Mason et al. (2013) a literature review has to share with the audience the outcomes of a research that are closely related. According to Creswell (2014), a literature review “shares with the reader the results of other studies that are closely related (pp. 25).” Mason et al. (2013) critically address researches and assertions made by other authors in an attempt to support the knowledge claims. That has been made effective by referring to other documented researches with regard to epistemic beliefs. One of the best references provided by Mason et al. (2013) is that 2006 Limon found out that epistemic beliefs tended to be multilayered meaning that they exist not only as general but specific domains.
The authors have also attempted to provide different conclusions and assertions made in previous researches. They also mentioned the specific models and approaches used. For instance, they mentioned that one of the researches aimed at determining the epistemic beliefs in acquisition of knowledge had been previously revealed under conceptual change studies along with several texts. They have also indicated the instruments used in examining the general and specific domains, which were mostly self-report questionnaires. Therefore, Mason et al. (2013) have been able to comprehensively use researches conducted by other authors in an attempt to justify their research.
However, their literature review has a weakness in that it has weakly addressed the assertion made by Creswell (2014) that literature review “provides a framework for establishing the importance of the study as well as a benchmark for comparing the results with other findings (pp. 27-28).” According to Mason et al. (2013), their study was only guided by two important questions including the relations occurring between epistemic beliefs based on specific domains, goal attainment, self-efficacy and concept and achievement. The other question that guided their research was whether the conceptual approach accounts for achievement of domains especially in the higher grades.
However, it has not been expounded in the literature review. However, Mason et al. (2013) only compared that with the past empirical researches and theoretical arguments. These researches only embarked on providing suggestions for variables. In that case, Mason et al. (2013) could only hypothesize their model in order to include both direct and indirect influences of the variables that were used by previous researches with regard to achievement. That suggests that there were no sufficient grounds to make comparisons of their results with those of the previous researches. In fact, they have indicated that a clarification would be vital for their hypothesis.
According to St. Clair (2005), researchers ought to apply empirical heuristics at some point in their approaches. Heuristics refers to any process used in problem solving and learning that uses practical approach, which does not guarantee optimal or perfect results, although provides sufficient and intermediate goals of the research. Mason et al. (2013) ought to have applied the representativeness heuristic in order to make comparisons with their results. Representativeness heuristic refers to a mental route that assists individuals to make a decision through comparison of information with their mental prototypes.
In that case, Mason et al. (2013) ought to have relied on their thoughts especially owing to the fact that the results they got were completely contrary to what they expected. That could have saved them from making a contrary assertion and avoid confusion. Comparing their results to evidence provided by the literature review, it is clear that they used the representativeness heuristic as a major tool in their research. According to Mason et al. (2013), “contrary to our expectations, beliefs about development of scientific knowledge were not related to any achievement goals (pp. 64).” Most importantly, their hypothesized routes were not significant with regard to the statistics obtained.
In addition, it was clear that the correlation between domain knowledge and self-efficacy was not revealed. It is in complete contradiction to their expectations and they must have used empirical heuristic in order to increase their research credibility. According to St. Clair (2005), “for educational research to be viewed as a means to generate thought and enquiry and for wider recognition of the central and essential role of human judgment as exercised by practitioners and researchers, empirical heuristics ought to be part of research endeavor (pp. 443) ”.
Therefore, it could be wise for the researchers to engage representativeness heuristics in their assertions that could have assisted them in making judgments with regard to the probability of the expectations. St. Clair (2005) advised on the use of a cognitive bias in order to categorize situations under the premises of patterns of past experiences or beliefs. In that case, Mason et al. (2013) had thoughts and beliefs in their minds that they had experienced and read from other researches. They could have relied on that in order to make assertions that could have otherwise provided the correct hypothesis. With the representativeness heuristic, all the hypothesized paths ought to have been statistically significant. Moreover, it is stated that the hypothesized model only fitted the data in the high level graders, but offered little explanation in regard to variance of achievement. Heuristics could have played a major role in ensuring that the contradiction was covered in the study.
Mason et al. (2013) have adopted the approach of theory application in their research. They have engaged in a series of hypotheses whereby they have provided more than one guess in their results. They have hypothesized about epistemic beliefs stating that there was a direct relationship between mastery and performance-approach. That was with regard to the first question of their research problem. Moreover, they hypothesized about using their second question. Most importantly, they used visual models as a way of showing their hypothesized path model. The variables here also represented in the visual model including mastery, knowledge, self-concept, self-efficacy and achievement among others that seem to have a positive relationship.
Moreover, logical statements that address the “if-then” notion of thought are used. One of the statements showing the use of the notion is “if students have an unavailing belief that scientific knowledge is certain, they are likely to consider information that is conflicting with their current conceptions and engage with inconsistency in their cognitive structure (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 55).” Here, the variables are goal achievement and epistemic beliefs which are positively related.
Usage of a series of hypotheses in the methodology section has played a huge role in addressing each of the two questions of the research. In the first hypothesis, the advantage was that it assisted in researching the relationship between mastery and performance-approach where they “would be positively related to both mastery and performance-approach (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 57).” The disadvantage of hypothesizing emerged in the second question since they generalized all the factors instead of specific one. They stated that “the same conceptual model would give an account of the relations between the various individual characteristics contributing to achievement in science (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 58).” Most importantly, they have enhanced a comprehensive approach by introducing a visual model in the research questions and hypothesis section. That has played a huge role in showing the relationship that various variables have with each other. Moreover, the use of “if-then” approach seems to be weak in the discussion section. That is owing to the fact that their expectations in the hypotheses are not supported by the results.
Mason et al. (2013) can be said to have effectively applied their multidimensional approach in epistemology due to the fact that they seek to reveal the correlation between epistemic beliefs and scientific achievements with the help of coherent approaches. Starting from the introduction, they started asking a question that draws readers’ attention - “what individual factors contribute to achievement in science (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 50)?” They have also provided a critical literature review on the topic using evidence provided by other authors. They have also highlighted that different researchers hold different assumptions on epistemic beliefs stating that “there is a widespread theoretical agreement among educational psychologists about the construct of epistemic beliefs as multidimensional that is organized around four dimensions (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 50.” With these examples, it is clear that they have been able (to a significant level) to ascertain the multidimensional principles of the scientific research.
The three sections presented by Mason et al. (2013) seem to be quite comprehensive and coherent with each other. There is a logical sequence in presentation and transfer of thoughts from one section to the other. In other words, the three sections can be said to be effectively talking to each other. The article introduces readers to the idea that will be entirely discussed in the research paper. In this case, the paper looks into the examination of effects that learners` cognitive and motivational features have on achievements in science. That is examined at three levels.
The introduction is quite specific by highlighting that the relations between the domains of epistemic beliefs will be considered. Most importantly, it has stated the background of the research by highlighting that “in various countries there is great concern about students’ underachievement in science as revealed by recent international assessment (Mason et al., 2013, pp. 49).” The introduction part also highlights the research questions and the hypotheses. Most importantly, it assists in revealing the dependent and independent variables that were used.
By determining such variables and the research objectives, the researchers were able to come up with a profound methodology for their study. They used a sampling method since they could not examine the entire student population in Italy. They also assessed three levels, mentioned in the introduction, hence revealing their consistency. The most effective method of data collection that could help in obtaining relevant information regarding the topic was used. Thus, usage of 26-item structured questionnaires was the data collection method. In order to avoid bias, data collection started from the elementary levels. In fact, the literature review was keen in avoiding deviation from the main topic of the research. It concentrated on what was initially introduced in the first section of the paper. Despite the fact that the literature review paid attention to diverse perspectives, it eventually provided reliable and comprehensive information regarding the topic of the research. Therefore, it can be said that the three sections are effectively interrelated.
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