Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Kelly Bradley

Second Advisor

Dr. Fred Danner

Abstract

This document proceeds from an interest in applying theories of student development to higher education policy. The process sobered me from idealistic expectations of profundity to focus on adding relevant building blocks to the established foundation of epistemological development. Progress was found in moving toward clarifying what happens during the change process as a student moves from naïve to mature beliefs. Lead forth out of this ambiguity, unearthing the nature of social influences as a player in the developmental process became a target of this work.

Moving toward a deeper understanding of how concepts of attachment, naiveté, authority, and potential loss interface with epistemological development are at the core of this enterprise. The following is a quantitative analysis using a self-report survey to explore the interaction between social influences and the development of epistemological beliefs. The methodology uses students’ impressions of themselves to create a factor structure based on theory from previous research. The emerging limitations are both related to student perspective and the enigmatic nature of developmental measurement. The resulting claims keep these limitations in view with an eye toward conclusions that relate to defining factors. For example, the nature of authority was found to fit better as a source of knowledge rather than a social influence. Also, the factor of Social Accord emerged as a consistent influence on development.

The results show that social influences and the development of epistemic beliefs are negatively related and the statistical significance of the analysis suggests the value of further exploration into the relationship between the two constructs. However, even more clarity is needed to accurately define epistemic beliefs, how they could be best measured quantitatively, and how social influences are composed. This project is a step along that building process.