David Zern, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Education
Clark University
Worcester, MA 01610-1477

(508) 793-7224 phone

Professor Zern received a B.A. (1962), M.Ed. (1964), and Ph.D. (1969) from Harvard University. He has been at Clark since 1971.

Current Research and Teaching

My research and teaching interests are rather grandiose: I am aiming for an understanding of reality. My approach includes traditional research methodology, but is not limited to it. Where the scientific method and otherwise appropriate techniques conflict in an attempt to put my hypotheses into jeopardy, I will go with the latter. This latter point is perhaps best exemplified by the following: Should I want to test for the existence of God (not anticipated in at least the immediate future), I would be loathe to employ an empirical test to determine the existence of what is asserted to be an in-corporeal Entity. On the other hand, in an attempt to discover the pervasiveness of a belief in a God with a variety of characteristics, I have not hesitated to construct a survey for the appropriate audience, and examine the resulting data utilizing a number of descriptive and inferential statistics.

The hypotheses that I am most interested in at the present (and on which I have already done considerable systematic enquiry of both qualitative and quantitative nature) are:

  • Disequilibrium (and/or conflict/pressure/stress/pressure to be obedient/etc) is both necessary and sufficient for all types of development, including but not limited to the physical and intellectual. This idea is hugely applicable in any number of areas.
  • A belief in ultimate justice is a universal phenomenon in all people. There is a very varied and provocative literature on this subject that we are starting to pull together.

While there is no specific hypothesis on the subject, I expect that much of the analysis done above will bring in religious models, as well the thinking of such behavioral scientists as Freud and Piaget, and that there will be much discussion of the distinction between religion as a description of reality, and as a prescription of how to act (and how not to act). Students working with me can choose to do empirical research of a variety of kinds, or careful critical analyses of all kinds of disciplines (ranging from the natural science to the humanities, as well as the behavioral and social sciences).

Selected Publications

1997 Zern, David S. A longitudinal study of adolescents’ attitudes about assistance in the development of moral values. The Journal of Genetic Psychology. Vol. 158., No. 1. p. 79-95.

1990 Zern, David S.RESOLVED: Many researchers and intellectuals grossly undervalue the importance of simple student obedience in the classroom. (Pro) Debates in Education. 1. p.1-10.

1989 Zern, David S. Some connections between increasing religiousness and academic accomplishment in a college population. Adolescence. 24. p. 141-154.

1987 Zern, David S. Positive links among obedience pressure, religiousness, and measures of cognitive accomplishment: Evidence for the secular value of being religious. Journal of Psychology and Theology. 15, 1. p. 31-39.

1984 Zern, David S. The utilization of obedience to facilitate learning in a variety of educational contexts: A discussion. General Psychology Monographs. 109.149-163.