william perry? yes, i’ll have some of that.

In my class, we studied Student Development theory, and one of the theories I really enjoyed was William Perry's scheme of intellectual and moral development.  Basically, college studnets (and everyone else) are on a journey through different positions in how they figure out life around them.  The basic stages are dualistic, multiplistic, and relativistic.  Here are the 9 stages.  Enjoy!

  1. Dualism/Received Knowledge:
    There are right/wrong answers, engraved on Golden Tablets in the sky, known to Authorities.

    1. Basic Duality:
      All problems are solvable;
      Therefore, the student's task is to learn the Right Solutions
    2. Full Dualism:
      Some Authorities (literature, philosophy) disagree;
      others (science, math) agree.
      Therefore, there are Right Solutions, but some teachers' views of the Tablets are obscured.
      Therefore, student's task is to learn the Right Solutions and ignore the others!
  2. Multiplicity/Subjective Knowledge:
    There are conflicting answers;
    therefore, students must trust their "inner voices", not external Authority.

    1. Early Multiplicity:
      There are 2 kinds of problems:

      • those whose solutions we know
      • those whose solutions we don't know yet

      (thus, a kind of dualism).
      Student's task is to learn how to find the Right Solutions.

    2. Late Multiplicity:
      Most problems are of the second kind;
      therefore, everyone has a right to their own opinion;

        or

      some problems are unsolvable;
      therefore, it doesn't matter which (if any) solution you choose.Student's task is to shoot the bull.
      (Most freshman are at this position, which is a kind of relativism)

    At this point, some students become alienated, and either retreat to an earlier ("safer") position ("I think I'll study math, not literature, because there are clear answers and not as much uncertainty") or else escape (drop out) ("I can't stand college; all they want is right answers" or else "I can't stand college; no one gives you the right answers".)

  3. Relativism/Procedural Knowledge:
    There are disciplinary reasoning methods:
    Connected knowledge: empathetic (why do you believe X?; what does this poem say to me?)
    vs. Separated knowledge: "objective analysis" (what techniques can I use to analyze this poem?)

    1. Contextual Relativism:
      All proposed solutions are supported by reasons;
      i.e., must be viewed in context & relative to support.
      Some solutions are better than others, depending on context.
      Student's task is to learn to evaluate solutions.
    2. "Pre-Commitment":
      Student sees the necessity of:

      • making choices
      • committing to a solution
  4. Commitment/Constructed Knowledge:
    Integration of knowledge learned from others with personal experience and reflection.

    1. Commitment:
      Student makes a commitment.
    2. Challenges to Commitment:
      Student experiences implications of commitment.
      Student explores issues of responsibility.
    3. "Post-Commitment":
      Student realizes commitment is an ongoing, unfolding, evolving activity

    The journey is sometimes repeated; and one can be at different stages at the same time with respect to different subjects.

If this all seems intersting to you, maybe Higher Education is for you.  Talk to me.

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