Lonergan Forum

Main Forum Topics => Method In Theology => Topic started by: Jim Sullivan on December 16, 2012, 08:57:16 PM

Title: The Functional Specialties as assessment constructs
Post by: Jim Sullivan on December 16, 2012, 08:57:16 PM

I am new to this forum and have been working with Lonergan for the past five or six years as a major theorist in my doctoral work (Saint Mary's University). I am developing an assessment instrument based on the functional specialties designed to evaluate a judicial "viewpoint" on issues related to science in the courtroom. The instrument is based on Aikenhead's Views on Science-Technology-Society (VOSTS) and employs a position statement with various options for the participant to chose from. The new instrument is focused on the various functional specialties as assessment structures, with the subject matter content being the law and science-related topics.

After scouring the available literature, I have determined that there is very little of Lonergan's work on cognition and the functional specialties that has been operationalized. I have one dissertation from 1981 (International University) where the General Empirical Method was reviewed with the intent of providing validity and reliability to the structure. Lonergan himself participated in this endeavor.

So, with that said - I am curious if anything beyond a few scant items has been published on the functional specialties that reflects some form of quantitative or qualitative operationalization. It is always  possible that a thesis or dissertation may not have been published within the typically search domains.

Lastly, I am searching for panelists to review 16 or so statements for the JVOSTS instrument that reflect the functional specialties. Are there specific scholars that have focused on this topic I should consider? I have checked the literature and found different names attached to a variety of functional specialty topics - however - the focus of science and technology (or the law) would be most appropriate.

Thanks in advance!
Title: Re: The Functional Specialties as assessment constructs
Post by: Richard Moodey on December 17, 2012, 09:33:31 AM
Hi Jim,

Your project interests me.  Allow me to reflect a bit on the notion of "operationalizing" Lonergan's work on cognition and the functional specialties.  To begin with, I'm not sure what you mean by "providing validity and reliability to the structure," and I hope that you will correct me if I have missed the boat.

What I mean by "operationalize" is to create a method for measuring a variable.  By "measuring" I mean assigning a case to a category according to a rule.  So to operationalize a variable, I have to specify the categories as well as the rule or rules for assigning cases to one or another of the categories.  The set of categories I use in operationalizing any given variable may correspond to a ratio, interval, ordinal, or nominal scale (basic social science stats).  My method of measurement of any variable must be evaluated, as you say, in terms of reliability (easier task) and validity (much harder task).  My method of measurement can be described as a "structure," and it is in this sense that I interpret what you mean by the reliability and validity of the structure.

Lonergan's eight functional specialties constitute a set of categories, and it would be possible to assign instances of theological inquiry to one or another of these categories, taking the eight categories as constituting a nominal scale.  Lonergan's descriptions of these specialties, and the further elaboration of these descriptions by followers of Lonergan, provide the rules for assigning cases to categories.  The reliability of these assignments would probably have to be assessed by inter-scorer reliability, a high level of agreement between independent scorers in the way they assign a set of theological inquiries to these categories.  This kind of reliability might be hard to achieve, especially if the individuals or groups who had conducted the inquiries had not thought of themselves as working within one of Lonergan's functional specialties.  The judgment that a set of theological inquiries had been validly assigned to these categories would be contingent upon the judge's conviction that the categories themselves are a valid way of dividing up theological inquiries.  There is no question that theological inquiries differ, but there does not appear to be general consensus among theologians that Lonergan's set of categories provides a valid "ruler" for describing the variation in theological inquiries.  This means that only those who accept Lonergan's division of theology into these functional specialties would accept using them as a valid nominal scale.

There is another way of operationalizing the functional specialties.  Each of the eight could be considered to be a dimension along which a theological inquiry could be measured, analogous to the way height and weight are two dimensions along which a person's body is frequently measured.  This would involve most likely, developing ordinal scales for each functional specialty.  The result would be that each measured theological inquiry would receive a score on each specialty.  If the scores were assigned ordinal numbers, say 1 to 5, a given study might be a 3 on research, a 3 on interpretation, a 2 on history, a 1 on dialectic, a 4 on foundations, etc.  Again, there would probably be a need to assess inter-scorer reliability, and validity would still depend upon a judge's degree of acceptance of Lonergan's categories as pointing to the set of ways that theological inquiries can vary.

You are, however, not assessing theological studies, but judicial viewpoints on science in the context of the courtroom.  You appear to envision either administering a paper and pencil test to participants in a study, or interviewing them.  In either case, they would select one (or more?) of several options, and the options would be based on the functional specializations.  I can imagine how you might translate Lonergan's categories for FS in theology to a set of categories for positions on legal aspects of science.  I think that the same two approaches to measurement might still be relevant.  Would the legal-scientific analogues to the theological categories constitute a nominal scale in themselves, or would you use each category as the basis for constructing an ordinal -- "more or less" --  kind of scale? 

Another reflection on validity.  There is a difference between "criterion validity," "convergent validity," and "face validity."  Criterion validity is seldom possible, because it requires independent knowledge of that which the instrument has been designed to measure.  Thus, an intelligence test (the most commonly used example) can provide a score that is generally standardized with a mean of 100 and each standard deviation away from the mean being 10 points away from the mean, so that "normal" intelligence is the 66+% of the population with IQ scores between 90 and 110.   But it is impossible to know, independently of administering an intelligence test, what a person's IQ really is, so that we can see whether or not the test measures what it is supposed to.  But there still is convergent validity.  If there are several independently constructed intelligence tests, the validity of each can be judged by the degree to which the scores of a set of individuals measured by one test "converge" upon the scores of the same set of individuals as measure by the other tests.  But it is expensive to construct multiple tests, and the people who might be willing to take one are not likely to be willing to take the others, just so that the test makers can test the validity of their instruments.  The result is that the most popular kind of validity for tests in the social sciences turns out to be face validity.  This means that the arguments of the test makers that the way they have operationalized the measurement of a variable persuade enough of the interested parties to accept the results as valid.  This is made more plausible if the test turns out to be reliable, but if the measurement is unreliable, it cannot be judged to have even face validity.

Why have a droned on at such length about this.  I did my dissertation, many years ago, on standardizing a set of measures of gender identity for subjects in India.  I spent a great deal of time reviewing the literature on reliability and validity.  I concluded that one of the measures (the Franck Drawing Completion Test) was invalid for Indians.  I went back to the data for the standardization of the test for American subjects, and concluded that it was also invalid for Americans.  I was terrified that my dissertation director, who had a considerable stake in the validity of the test for Americans, would cut me up into little pieces, but he was very gracious.

Best regards,

Title: Re: The Functional Specialties as assessment constructs
Post by: Jim Sullivan on December 23, 2012, 11:37:16 PM
Hello Dick!

Thank you for your comments! The approach that I am using to develop the assessment instrument is a mixed-method tradition. The original work by Aikenhead and Ryan (1992) focused on assessing high school students and their views and knowledge of science-technology-society (STS) issues. To mange this feat, they employed a qualitative means of generating student positions on various STS issues through a process of student explanations/justifications for the various positions they felt strongly about. While this was a useful approach (according to many reviewers), the end result was a unique response model that presented only one aspect or position while disregarding the other positions within the context of a position statement. Additionally, the instrument did not provide useful response data for more robust or higher-level analytical approaches.

More recently, the VOSTS instrument was modified to have all positions within a position statement subject to assessment via a 9-point scale developed through a form of the Thurstone/Gutman approaches. In  this way, each position on an issue is evaluated, providing a richer perspective. This multiple response model is given further quantitative support through the use of a global attitude index applied post- assessment.

So - on to the functional specialties. Or rather, as Lonergan described their application in this sense - integrated studies. I am indeed treating each of the functional specialties as dimensions. It is through the aggregate of the eight dimensions that I am assembling a "judicial viewpoint" on the subject matter of science in the courtroom. I will be applying the mixed-method tradition for this work to gain a better sense of the scope of responses for each statement developed within the specific functional specialties (qualitative phase) and multivariate statistics to assemble the "judicial viewpoint" (quantitative phase).

As I mentioned in my first post - I have found only one published work that attempted using a quantitative approach to Lonergan's cognitive model. This work was conducted in 1981 and topically pursued the quantitative evaluation of the four-fold levels of conscious from the frame of the psychotherapist. If there are other works  - I have not been able to recover them in my searches.

Hope this clarifies my work a bit. If there is a specific piece of literature on functional specialties that you think I might find helpful, I would appreciate the comment!


Title: Re: The Functional Specialties as assessment constructs
Post by: Richard Moodey on December 24, 2012, 11:39:05 AM
Hi Jim,
As I try to imagine what the results of your assessments would be, I come up with a set of individual profiles, indicating something about a subject’s relation to each of the eight specialties, as well as data aggregating the whole sample’s response to each of the eight, probably using medians-quartiles or deciles, rather than mean and standard variations to indicate central tendencies and variability.  From this, a profile of the medians of the sample could be constructed. 

Am I somewhat close to the mark on this, or way off?

Best regards,