CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #3 “Understanding the multiplicities of duality”

CIPs Teaching Tips – Spring 2013 #3

“Understanding the multiplicities of duality”

The University of California Berkeley Teaching Guide for Graduate Student Instructors has a great write-up about Perry’s nine positions of development. Many educators have heard of the major three – duality, multiplicity, and commitment. The site explains each of the nine levels students develop through along this spectrum. The site is a great refresher course about these levels; however, what is just as, if not more important for us to remember as we try to “reach” our students in the classroom are these two important facts:

  1. Most of our students, no matter where they are along this developmental spectrum are rarely at the same point in all types of thinking. In other words, one student may be at one point relative to logical thought or general knowledge and at a very different place in terms of their ethical or moral reasoning. Perry said, “… each person may occupy several positions simultaneously with respect to different subjects and experiences. The developmental process is a constantly changing series of transitions between various positions.”
  2. First year students (or sophomores, juniors or seniors) are not all at the same position on the spectrum. While intelligence and cognitive development affect how students proceed along this spectrum, their experiences, including cultural and socioeconomic, also affect their movement.

Add to these factors, that our students are mostly in the process of transitioning from one position to another. This means how they responded yesterday might not be an indication of how they’ll respond next week. They are continuously growing and changing, adapting to new positions and falling backwards as they move forward.

What’s the lesson here? Teaching is about noticing student responses and perceptions and making instructional practice choices that help students to grasp the discoveries we offer them in our classrooms. If they are not recognizing or taking in what we offer to them, sometimes it’s because they don’t care; sometimes it’s because they’re lazy; and sometimes it’s because we are not taking into account where they are developmentally and how this affects their view.

Bottom line – don’t expect your students to think in as developed a fashion as you do, or even as graduate students do. Thank your lucky stars for those students at the far end of the spectrum who do “get” everything you offer immediately, but don’t assume all their peers are at the same level.

Here’s to making the lights go on in their eyes, Cinse

*Perry, W.G. (1999). Forms of Ethical and Intellectual Development in the College Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

CIP, Center for Instructional Practice Located on the second floor of the Miller Information Commons (the library) across from the printer – MIC 205

Contact Director Cinse Bonino for a one-on-one CIP instructional design session: Email: or Phone: 802 651 5965 Skype: cinse.cip


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