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THE William Perry’s Learning Stages theory. Summarize the theory in your own
In the 1960s and 70s William Perry developed a classic model for intellectual development among college students that some faculty still find useful. Students progress through three major stages. Dualism (either/or thinking). [ Students in this stage believe there is a single right answer to all questions. Knowledge is Òreceived truthÓ delivered by professors. Dualistic thinkers resist thinking
independently, drawing their own conclusions, stating their own points of view, and discussing ideas with peers; these are Òsenseless tasksÓ because they believe teachers should deliver the facts. They are especially uneasy when teachers (authorities) disagree. They believe that learning involves taking notes, memorizing facts, and later depositing facts on exams. Multiplicity (subjective knowledge). Students in this stage believe that knowledge is just an opinion, and students and faculty are equally entitled to believe in the veracity of their own opinions. They may rebel at faculty criticism of their work, attributing it to capricious whim and faculty inability to recognize the value in alternative perspectives. Relativism (constructed knowledge). Students at this level recognize that opinions are based on values, experiences, and knowledge. They can argue their perspective and consider the relative merit of alternative arguments by evaluating the quality of the evidence. Knowledge is ÒconstructedÓ through experience and reflection. These students view faculty as having better-informed opinions in their areas of expertise and as being able to teach students techniques for evaluating the quality of evidence underlying conclusions. So what? This theory might help you understand some of the cognitive and emotional needs of your students. Faculty can gently challenge students to nurture their growth through these stages. To Challenge Dualists Create assignments that invite dualists to consider multiple solutions to problems and the validity of alternative perspectives. Teach students to analyze, compare, contrast, and justify ideas. Role model accepting multiple points of view and challenging authority, and ask students to explain and defend their statements. ]
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