ERIC Identifier: ED284272
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Battaglini, Dennis J. - Schenkat, Randolph J.
ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills Urbana IL.
Fostering Cognitive Development in College Students--The Perry
and Toulmin Models. ERIC Digest.
The college classroom is widely regarded as a place where inquiring
students comprehend and challenge complex ideas. Frequently, instead, the
classes consist of diligent students eagerly taking notes and willing to
memorize anything for the exam--yet missing the course's essence and failing to
take a critical stance in relating to the ideas discussed. Such a mismatch
causes frustration for college teachers, who often ask the question: "Can't
This digest focuses on the question of development of intellectual abilities
in college students, with attention to two influential theorists, William Perry
and Stephen Toulmin. Brief summaries of their ideas will be presented, along
with implications for classroom instruction.
WHAT IS COLLEGE STUDENT COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT?
Perry (1970, 1981) has developed a model that holds much explanatory power in
suggesting how students make sense out of the information, theories,
experiences, and opinions that confront them in college classrooms. The three
descriptions below summarize many of the differences in student thinking
described by Perry.
DUALISTIC STUDENTS are those who see the world as a place of absolutes such
as right or wrong, true or false. Knowledge is seen as existing absolutely.
Dualistic students tend to think of their role in terms of "right" answers and
the role of the professor as providing those answers. These students will
present judgments and evaluations as if they were self-evident, without the need
MULTIPLISTIC STUDENTS recognize that there are multiple perspectives to
problems. However, they are unable to evaluate each perspective adequately. A
typical multiplistic response might be "We're all entitled to our own opinions,"
or "We're all good people." Argumentation ends, or is avoided, with the
RELATIVISTIC STUDENTS see knowledge as relative to particular frames of
reference. They show a capacity for detachment; they look for the "big picture,"
think about their own thinking, and evaluate their own ideas as well as those of
others. Frequently, by seeing alternative perspectives, they have difficulty
making a decision. Authorities are seen as people who can and should be
IMPLICATIONS OF THE PERRY MODEL FOR CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION
Understanding the Perry Model sheds some light on student perspectives that
are different from the college teacher's expectations. For example, in class
sessions dualistic students tend to respond negatively and question the
credibility of a professor who fails to respond immediately with a firm answer.
They are perplexed when arguments elicit a variety of valid interpretations. If
told that a number of responses to an assignment might be appropriate and
correct, they are disturbed by the idea of multiple answers. Some might even
voice the opinion that there should be only one right answer and all others
should be incorrect.
The notion of "right answers" carries over to evaluation of students.
Dualistic and multiplistic students have difficulty when, during discussions of
exam results, a professor responds: "Yes, that answer could also be considered
correct," or "Let me think about that for a minute." The multiplistic student
might always wonder "Why can't mine be right, too?" while the dualist is
thinking--"If he doesn't know it dead cold, he's not much of an expert!"
It is understandable that many students function as dualists if we accept
Rowe's (1983) analysis which holds that many elementary and secondary teachers
operate according to a model of learning that views students as "essentially
bottomless receptacles of information. . . This tends to limit the teacher's
function to one veying information and correcting student recitation." With such
teaching methods there is typically an official response to be recited whether
or not one understands it or believes it. Reports on higher education by the
Holmes Group (1986) note that lecture models with minimal student participation
dominate undergraduate education in colleges and universities.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE PERRY MODEL?
Over the past decade, extensive research using the Perry Model in many
academic disciplines has been conducted. Of course, the model has not gone
unchallenged. Bizzell (1984), for example, charges that it is inherently
value-laden insofar as it assumes that relativism is the most desirable
intellectual stance and perhaps an end in itself. One excellent source of
information is the "Perry Network Bibliography" which is updated semi-annually
and has currently over 300 citations. The bibliography is maintained by the
ISEM, 10429 Barnes Way, St. Paul, MN 55075. This body of research, along with
materials on Perry in the ERIC database, offers an array of suggestions for
working with college students. One particularly useful approach to sharpening
students'intellectual skills is found in the Toulmin Model.
WHAT IS THE TOULMIN MODEL?
The Toulmin Model (Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik, 1984) deals with rules of
rational argumentation. Its particular strength lies in the fact that it makes a
systematic and precise use of words and concepts already familiar to most
educated people. The model is a six-step system of argument: (1) a CLAIM is
made; (2) GROUNDS, i.e., facts to support it, are offered; (3) a WARRANT for
connecting the grounds to the claim is conveyed; (4) BACKING, the theoretical or
experimental foundations for the warrant, is shown (at least implicitly); (5)
appropriate MODAL QUALIFIERS (some, many, most, etc.) temper the claim; and (6)
possible REBUTTALS are considered.
As the concepts in the Toulmin model are applied to various kinds of texts
and used in classroom discussion, students may be brought to see that the
grounds for a claim are slim or that the theoretical backing is absent or of
dubious relevance. Students learn that the plausibility of the claim is
dependent upon a set of relations that can be extended and analyzed in a
systematic, although not necessarily conclusive, fashion. Thus, students see
that the language of reason is--or ought to be--the language of everyday life,
in all of its complexity and untidiness (Kolupke, 1985).
The Toulmin Model has wide applicability across disciplines and in relation
to a variety of texts. The history professor can advise the student writing on
the failure of the Roman empire that stronger grounds are needed for the claim
that Gracchan reforms were the cause. The psychology professor can suggest that
a term paper on the function of dreams needs stronger theoretical backing. The
sociology professor can advise the young analyst of the causes of child abuse to
qualify her conclusions. The American literature professor can remind the
enthusiastic admirer of Hemingway to anticipate possible rebuttals to his
argument that the Hemingway "code" is a complete guide to life.
TOULMIN AND PERRY--FURTHER CLASSROOM IMPLICATIONS
Much of the distinction between the dualistic and multiplistic students and
the relativistic students can be explained in Toulmin's terms. For example,
dualists see the warrant made by the expert as unquestionable, while the
multiplistic students think everyone has rights to make claims and warrants
without backing. The relativist, by definition, is operating with a conscious
conception of the justification and tentativeness embedded in the Toulmin Model.
Academic study requires that students operate at relativistic levels.
Well-prepared students should know the variety of ways in which the basic
concepts and principles of a discipline are organized to incorporate its facts,
and they need techniques through which truth or falsehood, validity or
invalidity are established (Shulman, 1986). Moreover, our understanding of the
nature of disciplinary knowledge has undergone many paradigm shifts in this
century (Schwartz and Ogilvy, 1979). Various disciplines from physics to
literary criticism constantly reshape themselves in ways that resist dualistic
conceptions. In Toulmin's terms, when there are competing claims for ideas
within a discipline or even for conceptions of the nature of disciplines,
students should be able to generate rules for determining which claim has the
greater warrant for their purposes. So the Toulmin Model lends a useful
terminology for dealing with the relativistic expectations which can be applied
across the range of coursework students encounter.
The Perry Model offers college teachers a lens to clarify the diversity of
backgrounds and dispositions that students bring to a topic. The model also
suggests that many of the expectations for student understanding of
sophisticated concepts and principles are beyond many students' levels of
cognitive development. The Toulmin Model offers one method to bridge the gap,
providing a practical framework of concepts and terms that can be used in
analyzing ideas in a variety of disciplines.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bizzell, Patricia. "William Perry and Liberal Education." COLLEGE ENGLISH 46
Holmes Group. TOMMORROW'S TEACHERS. East Lansing, MI: The Holmes Group, Inc.,
Kolupke, Joseph. "Critical Reasoning and College Programs.:" In IT STANDS TO
REASON, ed. R. Schenkat, D. Battaglini, and S. Rosen. Reno, NV: Counterpoint
Communications, 1985. ED 263 059.
Perry, William G., Jr. INTELLECTUAL AND ETHICAL DEVELOPMENT IN COLLEGE YEARS.
New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
mmmmmmmmm. "Cognitive and Ethical Growth: The Making of Meaning." In MODERN
AMERICAN COLLEGE, ed. A. Chickering. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981.
Rowe, Mary Budd. "Science Education: A Framework for Decisionmakers."
DAEDALUS 112 (1983): 123-142.
Schenkat, Randolph J.; Dennis Battaglini; and Sylvia W. Rosen, eds. IT STANDS
TO REASON: THE RATIONALE AND IMPLEMENTATION OF A DEVELOPMENT BASED LIBERAL ARTS
ORIENTED TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM. Reno, NV: Counterpoint Communications 1985.
ED 263 059.
Schwartz, P.; and J. Ogilvy. THE EMERGENT PARADIGM: CHANGING PATTERNS OF
THOUGHT AND BELIEF. Menlo Park, CA: Values and Lifestyle Program, 1979.
Shulman, Lee S. "Those Who Understand: Knowledge Growth in Teaching."
EDUCATIONAL RESEARCHER 15 (1986): 4-14.
Toulmin, Stephen, Richard Rieke, and Allan Janik. AN INTRODUCTION TO
REASONING, 2d ed. New York : Macmillan, 1984.