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Growth & Development

  Emerging Adulthood
Cognitive Development
- Cognitive Growth & Higher Education -

Growth & Development

Ψ  Years of education are strongly correlated with virtually every measure of adult cognition, even more so than age & SES.

    College education leads people to:
   •  be more tolerant of differing views.
    •  be more flexible & realistic in their attitudes.
     •  exercise dialectical thought in their reasoning.

Ψ  William Perry proposed nine steps ( or sequence of positions ) to illustrate this year-to-year progression of cognitive & ethical development in college.
   •  Positions 1, 2, & 3 are summarized as; Dualism Modified.
    •  Positions 4, 5, & 6, are summarized as; Relativism Discovered.
     •  Positions 7, 8, & 9 are summarized as; Commitments in Relativism Developed.


    Perry (1981) identifies nine basic positions, of which the three major positions are duality, multiplicity, & commitment.

  The most basic position is duality. The world, knowledge & morality are assumed to have a dualistic structure. Things are right or wrong, true or false, good or bad. Students see teachers as authority figures who impart right answers & "the truth." The role of the student is seen as being to receive those answers & demonstrate that they have learned them. Detachment is difficult in this because there is only a single, correct point of view. Most students have passed beyond this stage by the time that they arrive in a university. Those that have not quickly do so in the inherently pluralistic culture of modern universities.

•  Positions two through four are largely transitional. Learners gradually develop an increased recognition of multiplicity but still assimilate that multiplicity to the fundamentally dualistic framework of the first position. For instance, a student may recognize the existence of a multiplicity of different points of view in the university but still look for the point of view that the teacher "wants us to learn."

  The next major position is multiplicity (relativism discovered). The world, knowledge & morality are accepted as relativistic in the sense that truth is seen as relative to a frame of reference rather than absolute. Learners recognize that things can only be said to be right or wrong within a specific context. Teachers are seen as expert guides or consultants rather than as authority figures who impart "the truth." Peers are accepted as legitimate sources of learning (p. xxxii). This position involves a much more extensive restructuring of the learner's existing knowledge than previous positions as knowledge can no longer be assimilated to the existing dualistic organizational scheme.

•  Positions six through eight are also largely transitional. Recognition of the relativity of knowledge leads to the realization that a stable locus or point of view is necessary for a sense of identity and to give some feeling of continuity. This leads to the gradual formation of commitments to certain points of view, relationships, sorts of activities, etc. The learner realizes the necessity to find his own point of view in a relativistic world. He or she begins by questioning & reconsidering past beliefs & commitments, then develops & expands upon firm commitments regarding important areas of life and knowledge.

  The final major position is commitment. The commitments that the learners have developed together with their recognition that all knowledge is relative, leads to the realization both that each person partly determines his or her own fate & the recognition that commitments, & hence identity, are constantly evolving.

Ψ  Over the past two decades, college students in the US have become less concerned about developing a meaningful life philosophy & more concerned about finding a good job.

      It's a Mickey Mouse World , isn't it?

     Demographic characteristics of college student bodies have changed in recent years. Now! there are more:
•   students.
•   women.
•   older students.
•   religious & ethnic diversity.
•   low-income students.
•   students who are parents.
•   part-time students.
•   nonresidential students.
•   students who choose career based curricula.
•   specialized student organizations.
•   students who work part-time.
•   students who worry about paying back college loans.
•   students that take more than 4 years to earn a degree.

Ψ  The impact of college on an individual's cognitive growth depends not on the college's overall philosophy, funding or size, but on the particular "interaction between students & teachers & among the students themselves"; however, the impetus for cognitive growth now depends more on the classroom than the dorm room.

Ψ  The odds of dropping out of college increase as income falls, the size of the college increases, & as other life obligations enter the mix. Living off campus or working full time have been shown to increase drop out rates.

Growth & Development
Robert C. Gates
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