College Students' Role Models, Learning Style Preferences, and Academic Achievement in Collaborative Teaching: Absolute versus Relativistic Thinking

By Chiou, Wen-Bin | Adolescence, March 22, 2008 | Go to article overview

College Students' Role Models, Learning Style Preferences, and Academic Achievement in Collaborative Teaching: Absolute versus Relativistic Thinking


Chiou, Wen-Bin, Adolescence


In Taiwan, higher hospitality education is managed by the system of technological and vocational education. In order to maximize the professional skills learned by students, collaborative teaching has been widely adopted in the technical courses which are taught by both the professionals (technical teachers) and the academic instructors (lecturing teachers) simultaneously. The technical teachers are responsible for demonstrating practical skills, whereas the lecturing teachers are responsible for illustrating the principles and theories underlying those skills. A pioneer concept, i.e., modeling advantage, which depicts the likelihood of a teacher model being imitated by students over other competing models in a particular class, was developed by Chiou and Yang (2006) to differentiate the rival modeling of two kinds of teachers under the condition of collaborative teaching. Chiou and Yang found that students perceived a greater modeling advantage of the technical teachers compared with that of the lecturing teachers, and the preferred learning styles of the students were congruent with those teachers as their role models. However, some of the participants did not indicate a significant difference of teachers' modeling advantage as well as learning style preferences. Hence, this study will further consider the development factor that might moderate unitary or multiple identifications of college students in social learning and their differential engagement in academic learning and achievement.

In an effort to more adequately conceptualize the nature of cognitive development following childhood and adolescence, a number of theorists (e.g., Arlin, 1984; Basseches, 1984; Kramer, 1989; Labouvie-Vief, 1982; Sinnott, 1989) have posited stages of thought beyond Piaget's (1980) final cognitive developmental stage (formal operations). In general, these theories propose a reorganized progression from formalistic or absolute to more subjectively determined modes of thinking (Kramer, 1983; Kramer, Kahlbaugh, & Goldston, 1992) in which the relativistic and/or dialectical thinking more thoroughly depicts adolescents' and adults' adaptation to important real-life issues. These post-Piagetian perspectives suggest that the episetmic level of late adolescence (i.e., college students) is developing from formal operations toward the postformal cognitive ability of relativism (Kramer & Woodruff, 1986; Perry, 1970).

Considering the developmental stages in late adolescence, formalistic or relativistic are two possible modes of thinking during that period (Kahlbaugh & Kramer, 1995; Kramer et al., 1992). Absolute or formalistic thinking leads one to think in terms of absolute principles and ideas. This view holds that the world is stable and fixed. Contradiction is seen as incorrect or undesirable, resulting in such absolute, dualistic conceptions as right vs. wrong, truth vs. falsehood, weak vs. strong. These beliefs are supposed to develop during early adolescence, and find parallels elsewhere in the constructs of dualistic thinking (Benack, 1984; King, Kitchener, Davison, Parker, & Wood, 1983), intrasystematic thinking (Labouvie-Vief, 1982), late formal thinking (Pascual-Leone, 1983), and universal formal thinking (Basseches, 1984).

Relativistic thinking, defined on the basis of Pepper's (1942) contextualist worldview (Kramer, 1983), rests on the concepts of change, subjectivity, and novelty. As one's standpoint or context changes, so too does one's knowledge. Consequently all knowledge is seen as subjective and constantly changing due to fluctuating contexts, while contradiction is accepted as inherent and irreconcilable. The concept of relativism is similar to that of Basseches (1984) and Chandler (1987), and is supposed to develop in late adolescence and early adulthood. With other researchers it finds parallels in the concepts of intersystematic thinking (Labouvie-Vief, 1982), multiplicity (Benack, 1984; King et al. …

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