Cognitive dissonance and the effect of acceptance of methodology, beliefs about religion, religious orientation, and dogmatism on the success of university students in a religious studies course
The problem investigated was negative effects on the ability of a university student to successfully complete a course in religious studies resulting from conflict between the methodologies and objectives of religious studies and the student's system of beliefs. Using Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance as a theoretical framework, it was hypothesized that completing a course with a high level of success would be negatively affected by (1) failure to accept the methodologies and objectives of religious studies (methodology), (2) holding beliefs about religion that had potential conflicts with the methodologies and objectives (beliefs), (3) extrinsic religiousness, and (4) dogmatism.
The causal comparative method was used. The independent variables were measured with four scales employing Likert-type items. An 8-item scale to measure acceptance of the methodologies and objectives of religious studies and a 16-item scale to measure holding of beliefs about religion having potential conflict with the methodologies were developed for this study. These scales together with a 20-item form of Rokeach's Dogmatism Scale and Feagin's 12-item Religious Orientation Scale to measure extrinsic religiousness were administered to 144 undergraduate students enrolled in randomly selected religious studies courses at Florida International University. Level of success was determined by course grade with the 27% of students receiving the highest grades classified as highly successful and the 27% receiving the lowest grades classified as not highly successful.
A stepwise discriminant analysis produced a single significant function with methodology and dogmatism as the discriminants. Methodology was the principal discriminating variable. Beliefs and extrinsic religiousness failed to discriminate significantly. It was concluded that failing to accept the methodologies and objectives of religious studies and being highly dogmatic have significant negative effects on a student's success in a religious studies course. Recommendations were made for teaching to diminish these negative effects.
0745: Higher education