Integral Review

A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal For New Thought, Research, and Praxis

Posts Tagged ‘Zachary Stein’

On the Normative Function of Metatheoretical Endeavors

Zachary Stein

Abstract: I reconstruct an historical understanding of metatheory that emphasizes its normative function. The pioneering work of James Mark Baldwin inspires an account of how metatheoretical constructs emerge developmentally and come to serve a discourse-regulative function—overseeing, organizing, and regulating whole fields of discourse. Then I look to Charles S. Peirce as an exemplary normatively oriented metatheorist and explain how both continue a philosophical tradition concerned with the normative function of humanity more broadly. Thus, while I think it is valuable to pursue a variety of metatheoretical endeavors, including descriptive and empirical ones—mapping the terrain of various discourses, or summarizing their contributions—I argue for a specific vision of metatheory as a normative endeavor with rich intellectual and historical precedence. Unpacking some of the implications involved with this way of viewing and doing metatheory lead to considerations about the differences between two general types of metatheory (scholastic-reductionist and cosmopolitan-comprehensivist), the role of philosophical interlocutors in the public-sphere, and the trajectory of human evolution in the coming decades.

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Educational Crises and the Scramble for Usable Knowledge

Zachary Stein

Abstract: Quality-control efforts in the field of applied developmental psychology are just beginning. In this paper I set these efforts in a larger context to frame their significance and guide their direction. I argue that the challenges arising in the current post-national constellation are best understood as educational crises. The task demands of the global problem space increasingly outstrip available human capabilities. This situation is leading to a scramble for usable knowledge about education—defined broadly as any process intentionally undertaken to promote human development. There is a growing demand for techniques and technologies that catalyze the transformation of human capabilities; and this demand exceeds available supplies. Education becomes a growth market as specific types of human capabilities come to be recognized as scarce but valuable resources. This pressing global demand for innovative educational solutions and approaches has the potential to systematically distort the production of relevant usable knowledge. I present a set of general quality-control challenges that face the field of applied developmental psychology as it strives to meet the demands of a globalized crisis-ridden educational marketplace. I argue that the field should overcome temptations to circumvent peer review processes by going directly to consumers. I suggest adopting a general stance of epistemic humility so that research and collaboration are promoted and argumentative strategies that insulate approaches from criticism are avoided. Finally, I argue that more careful attention should be paid to the normative dimensions of educational enterprises, as they involve the creation of new values and raise ethical questions about the shape of what life ought to be like.

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Models, Metrics, and Measurement in Developmental Psychology

Zachary Stein and Katie Heikkinen

Abstract: Developmental psychology is currently used to measure psychological phenomena and by some, to re-design communities. While we generally support these uses, we are concerned about quality control standards guiding the production of usable knowledge in the discipline. In order to address these issues precisely, we provide an overview of the discipline’s various facets. We distinguish between developmental models and developmental metrics and relate each to different types of quality-control devices. In our view, models are either explanatory or descriptive, and their quality is evaluated in terms of specific types of disciplinary discourse. Metrics are either calibrated measures or soft measures, and their quality is evaluated in terms of specific psychometric parameters. Following a discussion on how developmentalists make metrics, and on a variety of metrics that have been made, we discuss the two key psychometric quality-control parameters, validity and reliability. This sets the stage for a limited and exploratory literature review concerning the quality of a set of existing metrics. We reveal a conspicuous lack of psychometric rigor on the part of some of the most popular developmental approaches and invite remedies for this situation.

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Modeling the demands of interdisciplinarity: Toward a framework for evaluating interdisciplinary endeavors

Zachary Stein

Abstract: I suggest there are two key factors that bear on the quality of interdisciplinary endeavors: the complexity of cognition and collaboration and the epistemological structure of interdisciplinary validity claims. The former suggests a hierarchical taxonomy of forms of inquiry involving more than one discipline. Inspired by Jantsh (1972) and looking to Fischer’s (1980) levels of cognitive development, I outline the following forms: disciplinary, multi-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and trans-disciplinary. This hierarchical taxonomy based on complexity is then supplemented by an epistemological discussion concerned with validity. I look to a handful of philosophers to distil the general epistemological structure of knowledge claims implicating more than one discipline. This involves differentiating between levels-of-analysis issues and perspectival issues. When all is said and done, we end up with a “language of evaluation” applicable to interdisciplinarity endeavors. Ultimately, this suggests an ideal mode of interdisciplinary endeavoring roughly coterminous with Wilber’s (2006) Integral Methodological Pluralism.

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