Chapter 1 gives an introduction to the study. It gives the history and background of the topic under investigation. It provides the thoughts and works of previous on Postformal thought and its development. Furthermore, it outlines the purpose and necessity of this study and how it will add knowledge to the current literature and show the significance and necessary application of the study.
Psychology scholars have since the earliest days of scientific psychological investigation tried to understand and explain how human beings perceive and interpret their environment. Obtaining such understanding is so critical to understanding human behaviour because it is on the foundation of the information that the human mind perceives, and how it interprets it, that humans act or behave. This is probably one of the biggest causes of variation in human behaviour. Because different individuals think differently, they behave differently. This relationship between cognition and behaviour is most evident in the way individuals of different ages behave and act. Because of different cognitive ability, individuals of varying ages act differently even toward the same stimuli.
Sigelman & Rider (2012) define cognition as, “the activity of knowing and the processes through which knowledge is acquired and problems are solved”. Cognition is therefore the active process of thinking; acquiring and processing through logical analysis and relating it to already existing, previously acquired information to solve a problem or attain a level of understanding. Therefore, cognition is the fundamental aspect of the human mental experience. Because human being are not naturally passive respondents to stimuli, development of cognitive abilities is therefore a very important aspect of the human development process. It is for this reason that several Psychology has invested a lot of its specialisation into understanding the phenomenon of cognition, including; how it happens (process), its various components and of course how it develops. In fact, it is common knowledge that human cognition becomes more and more complex as individuals develop. Various scholars and theories have been very influential in postulating and explaining the development of human cognition.
One such scholar and theory that have been very influential in the way we look at cognitive development are Jean Piaget and his Cognitive-Development Theory. The primary basis for this theory is that in the same way that the body is adapted to fit with the environment, so do structures of the mind develop to better fit with, or represent, the external world (Berk, 2008). In this way, by being constantly presented with information that’s inconsistent with the already held knowledge, the human mind adjusts its cognitive processes to accommodate the newly acquired information. This is the process of cognitive development according to Piaget. And it through this process that human cognitive abilities become more and more complex and individuals age. Because of this process, individuals of different ages will exhibit different cognitive abilities due to different experience levels; information processing and analysis skills. This is one of the most basic assumptions of human development; that human development is made up of hierarchical stages each exhibiting distinct group of behaviours of similar complexity and representing a specific period of evolution in one’s personality and intellectual ability (Hostinar, 2006).
Piaget’s Cognitive-Development Theory makes this assumption as well. Piaget devised a model of cognitive development that included four different stages of development each stage representing a particular age group or stage of human physical development. Linearly and hierarchically arranged, the theory shows that more complex cognitive functioning develops in the higher stages which also coincide with higher chronological ages.
Piaget’s hierarchical model of intellectual development which identifies that individuals develop cognitively through four stages namely: Sensorimotor stage, which occurs from 0 to 2 years of age involves observation and interpretation of the environment to senses and physical actions. The Preoperational stage is the second stage occurring between 3 and 7 years. It largely involves the usage of symbols to represent the physical environment. Development of language is a perfect example and consequence of this developmental stage. Next is the Concrete Operational stage which involves logical thought based on concrete or tangible information that is representative the actuality. Finally, the Formal operation stage emerges at around the age of 11 or 12 years. Formal thought involves the capacity for abstract, systematic thinking and enables adolescents to formulate hypothesis, deduce testable inferences and see which inferences are confirmed. Piaget argues that the Formal operation stage which develops in the adolescence years is the highest form of human cognitive functioning. This argument extends to assume that adult cognition too is developed in adolescence and therefore there is no structural differences between an adult and adolescent’s intellectual ability and potential (Berk, 2008). Piaget’s assumptions however have been proven incorrect both by research and observation of adolescent and adult behaviours.
Post-Piagetian scholars therefore argue that cognitive development continues even beyond Formal operational thought acquisition t adolescence. The most important theoretical understanding of PFT can be found in the works of Jan D. Sinnott. She is not just a scholar on Postformal research but the original developer of the theory of complex problem-solving in adulthood, which is what she termed complex postformal thought. Sinnott (2014) asserts that one key difference between the complex postformal thinker and a non-postformal thinker is that the later tend towards more absolute solutions and responses to problems. These have a more scientific approach viewing problems using hypotheses of ‘if…then…” This level of thought is what is attained at the Formal Operational Stage. Later in life however, PFT develops after a certain amount of intellectual and personal experience. Postformal thought can be found in the problem solving responses of 18 to 90 year olds (Sinnott, 2014). Post formal thought is therefore a collection of cognitive abilities that emerge as individuals grow beyond adolescence. Due to different levels of experience however, younger individuals are expected to possess lower PFT. It is because of this understanding that the current research believes undergraduate students are suited for the observation of PFT development.
Brown (2015, p. 49) defines as, “the person’s ability to understand and coordinate multiple perspectives and apply them appropriately”. According to Kramer (as cited in Brown, 2015) Postformal thought can be summarised into the acquisition of three skills: the realization that knowledge and information is limitless yet relative, the acceptance of paradoxical beliefs, and the integration of conflicting viewpoints into a whole of personal beliefs. This is quite different from the principles of Formal thought and can the observed as more adult-like behaviour than adolescent behaviour.
To identify these differences between adult thought (Postformal thought) and adolescent thought (Formal thought) it is necessary to study the transition years from adolescence to adulthood. The undergraduate University years therefore represent a perfect sample for the investigation of this transition because individuals get into university as teenager or adolescents (between ages of 17 and 20) and graduate as early adults (ranging from 22 to 26years). Studies of this age range would further help reveal how Postformal thought develops and explain the differences observed between adult and adolescent behaviour.
It is imperative for Universities and other advanced institutions of learning to ensure that as a student progresses through their time in university, their cognitive faculties are developed to the levels beyond hypothetical analysis that Formal operation offers to dynamic and practical analysis that deals with real world situations. It is for this reason that the current study has employed the assessment of whether or not student attain PFT by graduation year as an objective. Commons and Ross (2008), identify several reasons why acquisition of PFT is important in solving problems in real world situations. First and primary among these observations is that Postformal thought introduces interpersonal and societal benefits unavailable at formal and earlier stages of performance. This is with the view that one of the major components of Postformal thought is better development in the understanding of moral, legal and political concepts which are all centred around emphasize the importance of the social world (Hostinar, 2006). This advancement through PFT leads to awareness of each person as a “system” with their own perspective, and even with multiple perspectives, leading to interpersonal and social preferences for genuine interest and tolerance for other people’s views. This can affect organisational changes in leadership, how leadership is understood and enforced and policy making. Furthermore, Commons and Ross (2008, p. 328) note that people who move through the postformal stages find there are interpersonal and personal benefits. They observed that blaming is reduced because relationships are run on equitable terms and, independence-dependence struggle is integrated into a more functional interdependence in which contributions to the needs and preferences of others is a normal part interaction.
In their conclusion, Commons and Ross say that, “The importance of postformal thought for science, mathematics, and the humanities is great. By using postformal stages, one can analyse what it takes to advance these fields… The work can begin to estimate what resources some problems require to keep a society, organizations, and a person competitive. No less important, better understanding of the history of science, mathematics, and the arts would develop”. Postformal thought is therefore, a significant phenomenon to investigate and apply to learning institutions for the betterment of human society.
2. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The development of Postformal is very important to the effective performance of an individual in their adult life. Postformal thought is now established as the highest level of human cognition should thus attained by all individual if they are to be fully productive and contribute positively to their society. It is however unknown whether or not Zambian university students to attain Postformal thought and this a problem because upon graduation, they form the cardinal work force that is supposed to evaluate and solve real life problems. It is there necessary to establish whether or not our students attain maximum cognitive functioning and furthermore, ensure that the advanced education system facilitates the development of Postformal thought through real world problem solving teaching curriculum.
3. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is important as it is the first step to understanding the influence of university tertiary education on cognitive development of individuals. This study is a prerequisite to the implementation of better university syllabi and teaching methods that encourage development of higher cognitive functioning in university students and Postformal problem solving skills that have real world practicality and application.
4. STUDY DELIMINATIONS
The study is limited by the time factor as it has to be completed within a period of months rather than years. To mitigate this limitation, the researcher will adopt a cross-sectional design that studies the progress of individuals at different stages of development with the assumption that they have passed through similar conditions for development.
By randomising the research sample factors, the investigator hopes to moderate any limitations and lack of generalizability that may arise due to the small sample of only 80 participants in ratio to the thousands of University of Zambia undergraduate students.
5. AIM AND OBJECTIVES
The aim of this study is to establish whether or not University students increase in Postformal thought, how in relation to time do they develop Postformal thought and whether or not their studies are and influencing factor to this process of development.
? Establish whether or not there are differences in postformal thought ability among students in different years of study.
? whether or not the academic field of study or faculty influences the intellectual development of students into Postformal thought
? Show whether or not University student have significantly and progressively higher levels of Postformal thought by the time they graduate compared to their entry year
6. RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND HYPOTHESIS
6.1. Research Questions
1. Are there differences in postformal thought ability of first, second, third and fourth year undergraduate students?
2. Does the academic field or programme of study affect postformal thought development?
3. Is Postformal thought develop progressively in university student (with little not no Postformal ability in first year, to higher development by the graduation year)?
1. There are significant differences in the postformal thought ability of students among all years of study in university. The higher the year of study, the greater the Postformal thought ability
2. Postformal thought and its development in undergraduate students are affected by a field of study or study programme. Social Science students have higher postformal ability than Natural science students.
3. Most students possess low levels (elements) of Postformal thought as they enter university in their first year (late teen and adolescent years) but start to develop Postformal cognition progressively as move to higher levels of their studies and until graduation year.
7. LITERATURE REVIEW
7.1. Empirical Literature Review
Various research and theoretical understandings have been developed and published to investigate the nature, development and process of Postformal thought. Some of this research was conducted in an attempt to improve Postformal thought in students and helped prove and reveal some important elements that facilitate the development of Postformal thought.
In an attempt to show the extent to which problem-based learning (PBL) can promote proficiencies postformal thinking, Sir Charles Wynn and Mosholder conducted studies testing how students performed on a 10 question Postformal thought questionnaire after using two different teaching method; their Problem Based Learning method (PBL) and the Traditional Lecture and Dissertation method (TLD). One group of 64 students was lectured using the PBL method while another group acted as a control group, being lectured using the TLD method. Postformal thought scores were taken from a pre intervention test and indicated no significant differences in the PFT mean levels of the two groups. After a semester of learning, the two groups where once again tested on their Postformal Thought performance. This time however, there was a greater difference between the Mean PFT score of the first group compared to the control group. Replication of the study also yielded similar results. Beyond proving that Wynn ; Mosholders PBL method was effective in promoting PFT, the study through its qualitative aspect also showed some key elements characteristic of Postformal thought. Students reported having better ,”…ability to recognize and better understand multiple truths or perspectives when confronted with a complex problem or issue, and the importance of utilizing multiple perspectives in the problem solving and decision-making process” (Wynn ; Mosholder, 2016, p. 19). In accordance with Basseches, and Sinnott (as cited in Wynn ; Mosholder, 2016) this study showed that individuals must be confronted by the diverse perspectives, multiple truths, and contradictions characteristic of complex problems in order to first recognize the inadequacy of formal absolutist thinking, and to begin seeking more adequate and advanced thinking systems such as Postformal thought. This assertion shows that an element of experience in necessary and important to the attainment of Postformal thought. In line with this conclusion therefore, one hypothesis of the current research is that as university student progress through their academic levels and are exposed to more and more knowledge, theoretical contradictions and advancing problems, they switch to Postformal thought to cope with these intellectual demands. In support of this Sinnott (2014) states that:
“The development of postformal thought helps explain how adult college students, for example, change their thinking styles as they go through the university experience. Younger successful students…are often concrete thinkers who need to know the “right” answers…Then, as students proceed through the learning experience, students become relativistic thinkers, shaken by the apparent disappearance of “Truth” (“no right or wrong answers exist”; “there is no way to decide about Truth”; “whatever” translation: “I don’t want to even think about this . . . it is too unimportant or annoying”). Now they see debates as going on forever, without possible closure. It doesn’t matter which philosophy one professes, which major one takes, it’s all the same endless, ongoing debate. Finally, students move on to complex thinking, a type of thinking in which they see that a necessary subjectivity is part of decisions about truth. A passionate commitment to the choice of a “reality” leads to making it “real” in the objective world. That complex thinking is what I call postformal thought.”
With this in mind, it will be expected that Fourth year student show more characteristics of Postformal thought than lower level students.
Another investigation that supports the previous study’s findings and conlcusion as to the relationship between complexity of encountered problems and PFT is the Frost, Thorne, ; Weisfeld (2013) study which yielded similar results in an attempt to show that a greater need for cognition encourages Postformal thought. Cacioppo, Petty, and Kao, 1984 (as cited in Frost, Thorne, ; Weisfeld) stated that, “individuals also vary in their level of inherent motivation for cognition”. Therefore, individuals with a higher motivation to engage in advanced thought will also show higher levels of Postformal thought. The current study postulates that higher levels of study can present problems that motivate a need to advance cognition beyond formal thought. To replicate the findings of Cacioppo, Petty and Kao, Frost, Thorne, and Weisfeld engaged 83 (25% males, 75% females) undergraduate students at University of Detroit Mercy of various demographic criteria enrolled in a Human Sexuality Course. Of those students, 25% were sophomores, 34% were juniors, and 41% were seniors aged between 19 to 53 years (M = 22.1, SD = 5.73). Participants identified themselves as American Indian (1%), Asian (3%), African American (19%), Latino (3%), Pacific Islander (1%), White (68%), and other (5%). Participants responded to two questionnaires twice during the semester, once during the second week of the semester and the last week of the semester. The Need for Cognition Scale consists of 18 items measuring an individual’s preference for engaging in effortful cognitive activities. Participants indicated the degree to which the statements described themselves on a five-point scale. Possible scores range from 18 to 90. The Complex Postformal Thought Questionnaire measured a participant’s level of post formal thought. The questionnaire contains 10 items each tapping into a different process of post formal thinking. Participants rated themselves on a seven-point scale to indicate the degree to which each statement characterized their own thinking. Possible scores range from 10 to 70. The participants also completed a short demographic questionnaire.
As predicted, a significant, positive relationship emerged between the first and second time the participants completed the two questionnaires. Students high in need for cognition also expressed more advanced Postformal thinking than students low in need for cognition. Age was reported to not be a predictor of need for cognition and thus indicated not contribution to PFT. In their discussion, Frost, Thorne, ; Weisfeld (2013) state that, “Age did not contribute significantly to Postformal thought. These results suggest that students who enjoy intellectual challenges are more likely to engage in Postformal thinking. One of the limitations to the study is the limited variability of demographic composition of the students. Participants were from a small, private Midwestern University, who were enrolled in a human sexuality course. Furthermore, as with many studies using an undergraduate population, the majority of the sample were female”.
The Detroit Mercy study reported that there is no significant change in participants’ need for cognition over a semester and thus no significant change in PFT levels. The researchers therefore advised a longitudinal approach, utilising the two questionnaires employed in the study on the first and fourth years of student’s time in University. Due to the limitation on time, the current study however will utilise a cross-sectional approach in trying to compare changes in student levels of PFT from first to final year of university studies
Furthermore, as in the presented literature, the current study will investigate how the two factors age and intellectual challenges as represented by academic studies influence PFT. This is in an attempt to find out which of the two factors affects PFT development more significantly. A separate study by Hostinar (2006) was able to show whether or not there is a relationship between PFT and age. The study intended to analyse the effects of age, personality factors and experience in competitive collegiate debate on the ability to think Post-formally. In this study, 80 college students completed a modified Postformal thought Questionnaire by Sinnott. The respondent where divided into four groups; Young or Older and Debaters and Non-debaters. The respondents were also tested using the Big Five Personality test to identify if there is a relationship between personality and PFT. The results of the research indicated that younger and older debaters scored higher on the Postformal thinking measure than non-debaters, and older students scored on average higher than younger students, these differences were however not statistically significant. The correlation between age and Postformal thought was positive and low, with Pearson’s r =.122. This lack of statistically significant on the relationship between age Postformal thinking could be attributed to sample sizes being too small or to the fact that the Postformal questionnaire is not sensitive enough to detect the differences. There were only eight items on the constructed survey and the items are phrased in a very abstract way, which could limit the subjects’ ability to assess their thinking style (Hostinar, 2006). The research did however find a significant positive correlation between Openness to Experience (a personality trait that was also positively correlated with debaters) and Postformal thinking, supporting the literature which showed that personality factors are related to and overlap with thinking. Endler, 2000 (as cited in Hostinar) revealed that Openness to Experience overlaps with aspects of intelligence. Another important result was that Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness combined can be used to predict the Postformal score. This Openness to experience was asserted to have been a measure of the breadth, depth, originality, and complexity of an individual’s mental life. This observation also helps affirm the conclusions of Wynn & Mosholder (2016), that complexity of problem encourages a shift to Postformal thinking.
7.2. Theoretical Review/Framework
Several theoretical models and conceptualisations have been developed by scholars to explain the nature and development of PFT. Primary among these is the work of Jan D. Sinnott who is the developer of the theory of PFT and the person the coined the term for this advanced complex adult thought. Although some elements of PFT are present as early as 18 years of age, the fundamental principles of operation are not established until early adulthood which is why it is considered a predominantly adult form of thinking.
According to Sinnott, 1998 (as cited in Sinnott, 2014) postformal cognitive operations are founded on two principles namely: self-reference (or “necessary subjectivity”) and the
ordering of formal operations. The notion of self-reference refers to an individual’s understanding that all knowledge and truth has a subjective component in the way we understand it. It is therefore self-referential logic yet we must still act on it despite the subjectivity and potential inaccuracy.
The second principle; Ordering of formal operations, refers to the use of the self-reference (subjectivity) to choose one of various reasoning systems and impose it as ‘true’ or as a functional basis for actions. For example, advanced college students can ‘decide” a certain ethical system is “true,” while knowing full well that there is no absolute way of deciding the truth of an ethical system (Perry, 1995; as cited in Sinnott, 2014). Therefore, while formal (Scientific) reasoning operations presume reasoning consistency within a single reasoning system, in which the implications are absolute, postformal operations presume subjective selection among logically contradictory formal operational systems, each of which is internally consistent and absolute. This understanding and differentiation of PFT and formal operation is what the current research will use to show the differences between senior and junior university students in their responses to the test questionnaire.
More importantly though, this theoretical understanding is what is the current research intends to use as ground for hypothetical differences between undergraduate students in the natural sciences to undergraduate students in social sciences. Individuals in both fields of academia may be within the same age group and thus possess the same ability in postformal thought as they enter into University in their first years. However, as these individuals continue through their year of study, individuals in the Natural Sciences are exposed to theories and problems that demand absolute and scientific solutions. Therefore, in the classic formal operational sense, their minds are expected to oriented towards absolute and definite answers to problems. On the other hand, Social Science student will through the course of their studies be exposed to theories and problems that do not demand absolute solution rather responses that are based on how best an individual understands and can argues for a particular response that they present from a subjective judgement. Therefore, similar to the demand of Postformal thought, social sciences demand an analysis of multiple perspectives and logical argument, understanding their individual content, subjectively deciding which perspective seems best and then leaning towards it as a correct answer solely on how best one is able to argue for it.
Therefore, compared to natural Science students, social Science students attain greater experience in postformal thinking and problem solving. Hypothetically speaking, social science students have greater postformal ability compared to natural science students due to the differences in the two groups abilities to look at problems relatively and solve them subjectively.
Finally, Sinnott (2014) identifies nine thinking operation that make up PFT. These are:
1. Metatheory shift: the ability to view reality from more than one main reasoning perspective e.g. an abstract and a practical perspective,
2. Problem definition: the realization that there is always more than one way to define a problem, and that one must define a problem to solve it.
3. Process/product shift: is realizing that one can reach a “content-related” solution to a given problem, and/or a solution that gives one a heuristic or a process that solves many such problems.
4. Parameter setting is the realization that one must choose aspects of the problem context that must be considered or ignored for this solution.
5. Multiple solutions mean that one can generate several solutions, based on several ways to view the problem
6. Pragmatism: means ability to evaluate the solutions that I create for the problem, and then select one that is “best” by some definition. Then, by some criterion, to use the one that is “best.”
7. Multiple causality: the realization that an event can be the result of several causes.
8. Multiple methods: is the realization that there are several ways to get to the same solution of a problem.
9. Paradox: realizing that contradictions are inherent in reality, and that the broader view of an event can eliminate contradictions.
These individual mental processes are each a part of thinking that Sinnott terms postformal thought. A person who can use some of these postformal operations is able to respond more flexibly to problems than the person who has no use of any of these operations. Sinnott however cautions that Postformal thought is not always the best way to process a certain experience; it may be that sensorimotor or concrete operation in some instance. For the purpose of the research however, these various aspects of PFT will be used a guiding tools in the modification of the Complex PFT questionnaire to adapt it to the research sample. By ensuring that despite the modifications the test still tests for these element, the validity of the test will be preserved.
Two other theoretical understanding or descriptions of PFT have been devised by scholars. While they do not necessary contradict each other (or Sinnott’s original conceptualisation), they each present a perspective unique to the other as to the nature and process of Postformal thought.
Brown (2015, p. 49) identified that Piaget’s assumption that cognitive development ends with acquisition of formal thought in adolescence ignored the increase in crystallised intelligence as individuals continue to develop and mature. Crystallised intelligence is what this this research identifies as the necessary experience in problem solving that teaches individuals to consider several solutions to a single problem, through the presentation of more complex challenges that present logically contradicting situations to navigate. This therefore forces individuals to abandon the strict rules of Formal operational thought and adapt to the multiple perspective approach that the situation demands. Brown’s introduction of crystallised intelligence (or necessary experience) for the development of PFT strengthens the idea that PFT should be expected to be significantly higher in fourth year undergraduate students than in their first year juniors.
Additionally, Brown outlined that the formal operational stage is noted for an individual’s ability to formulate and test hypotheses allowing them to infer future problems and come up with solutions in a scientific fashion, using logic, prior knowledge, and testing to reach an answer with the general principle that there is one correct answer. This is was however contrasted to what is identified as Postformal adult behaviour which Brown (2015, p. 49) defines as, “the person’s ability to understand and coordinate multiple perspectives and apply them appropriately”. According to Kramer (as cited in Brown, 2015) Postformal thought can be summarised into the acquisition of three skills: the realisation that knowledge and information is limitless yet relative, the acceptance of paradoxical beliefs, and the integration of conflicting viewpoints into a whole of personal beliefs. This is quite different from the principles of Formal thought and can the observed as more adult-like behaviour than adolescent behaviour.
Brown (2015) also subscribes to the notion that PFT develops and advances in four stages namely; systematic, meta-systematic, paradigmatic, and cross-paradigmatic. These stages indicate advancement in cognition from the systematic level of Postformal thought which allows individuals to see and understand the multiple and intertwining causes that can lead to a variety of effects. At this stage of Postformal thought, the Postformal thinker (unlike the formal thinker) realises that different causes lead to the same solution and that the same cause can lead to a variety of outcomes. Therefore, unlike the formal thinker that has a “one solution to one problem” mentality based on rigid logical reasoning, the Postformal thinker accepts that there could be multiple answers to the same question. While individuals at this stage are able to recognise that there could be several perspectives at play in problem solving, they are still unable to reason from alternative perspective because they still hold on to one view which they only believe is not the complete and only view. To go beyond this, they must enter into the Multi-system stage in which they are able to vary their actions by comparing, analysing, and synthesising the relationships and systems they learned to conceptualize in the systemic stage” (Commons ; Ross, 2008). They can now reason from multi angles and present arguments for each perspective and can group and organise information into larger systems synthesising what are termed supersystems.
At the paradigmatic, and cross-paradigmatic cognition involves the ability to understand the complexity of the supersystems. These systems explain and predict the world or explain the impossibility of doing so, and then understand how different or meta-systems interact and conflict (Brown, 2015). These last two stages of Postformal thought seek to explain the higher complexities of integrated smaller systems.
In essence therefore, the linear progression of Postformal thought happens through the person gaining the understanding of increasingly complex relationships and systems.
Two challenges however arise from this conceptualisation of PFT. Firstly, individual at the systematic and meta-systematic stage show too little difference in cognitive ability to be considered different stages at all. There is no unique difference in cognitive performance of one stage from the other. These stages merely represent different subjective abilities of collecting and representing information. The more information any individual can hold, the more mental categories (Schemas) and subcategories they will create. This is not a representation cognitive advancement.
Secondly, the stages approach in identifying elements of Postformal thought cannot be relied upon as effect as it postulates that very few reach the higher paradigmatic, and cross-paradigmatic levels. Brown (2015, p. 50) states that, “It is hypothesized that only about 2% of the United States population function at this level Metasystematic, mostly professors, researchers, and academics”. Commons ; Ross, (2008) on the other hand claim that on 0.5% of the United States population function at the Paradigmatic and Cross-paradigmatic. This creates a representative sample discrepancy because there is too few a number of high level Postformal thinkers to accurately prove the existence and even the feature of the levels of PFT. In addition, the claim that these higher stages of PFT are only attained by such a small percentage the population and by only individuals from particular fields of study such as Professors and academicians creates an occupational and perhaps cultural bias. If Postformal thought is truly a generalizable human cognitive function, then it should be attainable by many individuals of diverse people of various cultures and professions; in one way or another. This stages approach however still remains relevant to the understanding of PFT as it shows that while Postformal thought develops quite early after adolescence, different individuals are at different level of PFT ability due to different levels of experience and problem solving demands.
In contrast to the stages approach and presentation of the complex stages approach in identifying the defining elements of PFT, Wynn ; Mosholder (2016) identify only two major changes in cognitive information processing that can be associated with Postformal thought, Relativistic thinking and Dialectic thinking. They assert that relativistic thinking involve three cognitive advances: 1). expansion of the lens of problem-solving beyond fixed truths or good versus bad; 2). realization that context, complexities, and contradictions are key to understanding a problem/issue and central to developing possible resolution alternatives; and 3). recognize that some problems/issues may not have workable solutions. At the next level, Dialectic Postformal thinker advance to: 1). combine relativistic thinking with the recognition that contradictions within a problem or issue are interrelated and connected; 2). use inconsistencies and contradictions as catalysts for problem-solving; 3). seek to determine why opposing sides believe what they believe; 4). use this knowledge to develop resolution alternatives; 4). recognize that on-going changes will challenge any stability or solution reached and will often produce a tension-to-resolution-to-tension cycle dynamic.
Wynn ; Mosholder (Wynn ; Mosholder, 2016) hereby simplify the Postformal thought process to two basic elements. While levels of Postformal cognition may differe in different individuals depending of general inteligence, personality trait cultural differences and occupations, it is easy to accept that this conceptualisation of PFT is generally attainable by any mentally adequate adult human being. And though it may be utilised differently by each individual depending of the afore mention personal difference, the fact remains that presented with sufficient information about a particular problem most adults would be able to employ Postformal rationality to presented problems.
Because PFT skills and abilities are generally accessible to all individuals irrespective personality traits, culture and development history, it is therefore expected that individual even in the Zambia context can and have attained postformal thought. However, there currently isnt any information about the development and existance of postformal thought in Zambia. All literature and research that has been reviewd is representative of postformal information in western culture and countries. Therefore, its findings can not be used and generalised conclusively to the Zambian culture due to it unique cultural and historic background. The current research therefore intends to cover this knowledge gapprovide novel information on the nature and development PFT in Zambia. This is will be done with particular interest in University of Zambia students thus providing the first known information about the nature of postformal thought in Zambia.
This section describes the nature of the proposed research including design, sample description and section. It also describes the study site and the procedures for data collection, analysis and ethical matters that may arise.
1.1. Research Design
The proposed research be a quantitative between-subject study. It will observe and analyse Postformal as a phenomenon in different individuals at different levels of the same factors; namely age and year of study. Therefore, the study design is cross-sectional design analysing the same phenomenon in different individual at different development stages to determine whether or not there are differences between them and what the determinant factor for these differences is. The cross-sectional design was used because it allows the research to compare Postformal thought abilities at different stages of development and academic levels without the need to follow one set of individuals from first year to final year or graduation year; thus saving time
The research sample for the study will be 80 undergraduate students at the University of Zambia. Undergraduate students serve as a suitable sample as they represent an age group of transition from late adolescent (Teenage) to Early Adulthood. The sample will be divided among 4 levels of the independent variable (Academic year of study) namely First year, Second Year, third year and Fourth Year. Each level will therefore be represented by 20 students. Additionally, to assess the differences between Natural Science and Social Science student, the sampling will target student in both fields of study thus dividing the same sample into two other distinct sample variables. The Natural sciences will be represented by students studying four-year natural science programmes such as Computer Science, Physics and biochemistry, as well school of education students that have specialised in natural science programmes like Mathematics, chemistry and biology. From schools such Engineering, veterinary medicine and mining, the research will only include individuals up to the fourth year to create a balance with most other study programmes which end at fourth year.
The Social science will be represented by any student at the University of Zambia in the school of humanities and social sciences as well as students in the School of Law and Students in the school of education School of Education with specialisation in Social Sciences such as History, Religious Studies and Arts and literature. The sample information is therefore summarised as follows:
For Year of Study: For Field of Study:
1.3 Sampling Technic
Firstly, the study will use a random selection technic of participants. The research sample will exclude all postgraduate students. This research will focus exclusively on full-time undergraduate students at the University of Zambia. This is because the latter groups of University of Zambia students have very diverse age ranges with more middle aged adults pursuing further studies or second degrees. Such individuals may have also had some work and study experience which would have presented the necessary challenge for the development of PFT. Inclusion of these individuals into the sample would negatively affect the aim of the research as it centres on PFT development from adolescence to early adulthood.
The randomisation will be at the levels of the independent variables. Therefore, 20 individuals will be selected at random to represent each level of the factor, Year of study. The second factor, field of study will be represented by 40 individuals at each level. Therefore, each randomly selected student will be selected to represent the population at a particular level of both factors.
1.4 Study Site
For easier access to a suitable sample, the study site for this research is the University of Zambia Main campus. This site is having been chosen to not only provide a suitable sample in terms of age but also because the research will aim to investigate the relationship between Postformal thought and academic study advancement. Additionally, research finding may be relevant for evaluation of the effectiveness of the institutions teaching strategies and programmes in relation to aiding the attainment of PFT among students.
1.5 Data Collection tool
The data collection tool that will be used is a Postformal thought test questionnaire adopted from Sinnott (Sinnott, 2014). The participant is given a set of 20 statements and asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how much the statement describes them. To ensure validity, the test uses opposing statements to ensure and test consistency in the responses of the participants. The reverse of each original statement is also reverse scored.
The highest possible score on the test is 140 while the lowest is 20. There is no specific indicator scale at which postformal thought can be said to be present because it is assumed that elements of Postformal thought are present in all testable adults. This research will only compare the average mean scores of participants to show differences in the possession of PFT elements.
Furthermore, attached to the PFT test questionnaire is a short list of questions intended to collect the participant’s demographic information such as age, year of study and programme of study. The participant’s identity however will remain anonymous.
The researcher will select random hostels to seek out participants for the research. While the selection of possible participants will be random, the researcher will ensure that all factors are represented by an equal number of participants. Therefore, the researcher will have to actively select participants that fit the desired criteria. The students will then be presented with the PFT test and questionnaire. The participants will be given an informed consent and briefing on nature and purpose of the research. Should they consent to participation, they will be asked to respond to the questionnaire as instructed and guided by the research. If they are unable to respond immediately, the questionnaire will be left in their possession and will be collected on a second visit by the researcher a day favourable and recommended by the participant. When all questionnaires have been collected, the data will be entered into the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) computer software for analysis. Interpretation will thus be made according to the calculated results from this software.
1.7. Data Analysis
All data collected from the participants through self-report questionnaires and tests will be entered into the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) for analysis.
The current study is a comparative study and will therefore mainly utilise comparison of Means of various groups and levels of factors. Therefore, the first data analysis technique that will be used is the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA). This will be used to compare the mean score of the factor year of study on four levels. This is to check for differences in the PFT levels of students at these different levels.
The researcher will run a t-test to see if there are any differences among students from the two primary study fields (Natural Sciences and Social Science). Furthermore, ANOVA will be run to test and see differences in score between the two faculties in relation to year of study. This will be done to see if there are differences in postformal thought ability of student in different fields with passage of years considering the fact that hypothetically, they enter university with the same level of PFT.
Lastly, the data will be analysed using regression and correlation techniques as the researcher tries to answer the third research question. This is meant to establish the progressive nature of PFT development in undergraduate students and how it relates to changes with raising levels of academic problems due to increase in academic years of study.
1.8. Ethical Consideration
Because the research will primarily include the collection the collection of personal and academic information about the participants such as age, such information will have to be safe guarded from public access and shall only be used for the purpose of the research. To also safe guard the identity of the participants, the will note be required to enter any names or student identification numbers on the questionnaire.
Additionally, the participants may be uncomfortable with being evaluated and tested on intellectual ability. Therefore, the nature of the study will be fully explained to participants before they can give consent to Psychological testing. A consent form will be presented with every questionnaire to the participants.
Berk, L. E. (2008). Life Span Development. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Brown, K. (2015). Influence of Post-Formal Thought On Intellectual Testing. Gallaudet Chronicles of Psychology, 3(1), 49-51.
Commons, M. L., ; Ross, S. N. (2008). What is Post-Formal Thought, And Why it Matters. World Futures, 321-329.
Frost, S., Thorne, C., ; Weisfeld, C. (2013). What Are They THhinking: Measuring Adult Though At UDM. Detroit: University of Detroit Mercy. Retrieved 3 7, 2017, from www.PosterPresentations.com
Hostinar, C. E. (2006). Evidence of Post-formal Thinking Among College Students. National Conference (pp. 3360-3366). Asheville: The University of North Carolina at Asheville. Retrieved 3 4, 2017
Sigelman, C. K., ; Rider, E. E. (2012). Life-Span Human Development (7th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.
Sinnott, J. D. (2014). Adult Development: Cognitive Aspects of Thriving Close Relationships. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wynn, C. T., ; Mosholder, R. S. (2016). Facilitating Advanced Thinking Skills through Problem-Based Learning. SoTL Commons Conference. 3. Georgia: Georgia Southern University. Retrieved 3 4, 2017, from http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/sotlcommons/SoTL/2016/13