Perry (1970). The nine developmental positions identified
by Perry (1970, pp. 9-10) are shown below. They were devised
through close observation, intensive interviews, and measurement
of Harvard undergraduates (82 men and 2 women) as they proceeded
through college in the 1950s and 1960s. Perry was specifically
interested in how college students think and in the impact
of education on intellectual and ethical development.
1: The student sees the world in polar terms of we-right-good
vs. other-wrong-bad. Right Answers for everything exist in
the Absolute, known to Authority, whose role is to mediate
(teach) them. Knowledge and goodness are perceived as quantitative
accretions of discrete rightnesses to be collected by hard
work and obedience (paradigm: a spelling test).
2: The student perceives diversity of opinion, and uncertainty,
and accounts for them as unwarranted confusion in poorly qualified
Authorities or as mere exercises set by Authority "so we can
learn to find The Answer for ourselves."
3: The student accepts diversity and uncertainty as legitimate
but still temporary in areas where Authority "hasn't
found The Answer yet." He supposes Authority grades him in
these areas on "good expression" but remains puzzled as to
4: (a) The student perceives legitimate uncertainty (and
therefore diversity of opinion) to be extensive and raises
it to the status of an unstructured epistemological realm
of its own, in which "anyone has a right to his opinion,"
a realm which he sets over against Authority's realm, where
right-wrong still prevails; or (b) the student discovers qualitative
contextual relativistic reasoning as a special case of "what
They want" within Authority's realm.
5: The student perceives all knowledge and values (including
Authority's) as contextual and relativistic and subordinates
dualistic right-wrong functions to the status of a special
case, in context.
6: The student apprehends the necessity of orienting himself
in a relativistic world through some form of personal Commitment
(as distinct from unquestioned or unconsidered commitment
to simple belief in certainty).
7: The student makes an initial Commitment in some area.
8: The student experiences the implications of Commitment
and explores the subjective and stylistic issues of responsibility.
9: The student experiences the affirmation of identity
among multiple responsibilities and realizes Commitment as
an ongoing, unfolding activity through which he expresses
his life style.
model moves from perceiving the world in absolutist terms
(positions 1,2,3) to making more room for diversity and recognizing
the problematic nature of life (positions 4,5,6,) to finding
one's own place through personal commitment in a relativistic
world (positions 7,8,9). In brief, development moves through
sequences - from simplicity to complexity and from differentiation
to integration. In Perry's scheme, the immature person perceives
the world in either-or, good-bad, permitted-not permitted
terms. A child or an immature adult looks to an outside authority
- parent or teacher- for the "right" answer. Gradually, he
begins to discover that authorities disagree and that the
values of fellow students differ from his own. In an effort
to resolve the differences between equally credible people,
he adopts the "everyone has a right to his own opinion" stance
or the "I'll do what they want even thought I don't
see why" attitude. The individual attaining more advanced
levels of development begins to see that he must find integrity
for himself in a relativistic world, identifying the things
that are important and central to his sense of self.
research, Perry found that most Harvard freshmen enter college
at stages 3, 4 and 5 and graduate in positions 6,7, and 8.
Position 9 was rarely observed in college students, but I
would expect it to be more common among adult learners, especially
those engaged in substantial intellectual work. Indeed, as
research extends to the adult years, I would expect revision
and extension of Perry's top three or four positions.
of course, possible that the highest positions of intellectual
development reported by Perry for Harvard undergraduates would
also be the highest positions among adults, but that seems
unlikely. As we saw in the early pages of this chapter, IQ
was once thought to parallel physical growth, rising to a
maximum when physical maturity is attained, declining as old
age is approached. Further investigation of intellectual performance
on intelligence tests revealed not so much different amounts
of intelligence between youth and old age as different patterns,
as represented in the concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence.
Similarly, I would expect new patterns and new developmental
positions to appear among adults doing extensive intellectual
work. The promise of further study of developmental theories
of intellectual growth lies in their potential to illuminate
the range and sequence of patterns of human learning. If we
know where an adult stands in intellectual development, we
are in a better position to help him or her advance to the
Cross, Kathryn Patricia
Adults as Learners.