Scale of Intellectual Development

Racing Thoughts

Jasper Johns, slightly doctored by me and Adobe Photoshop

 

  Research with intelligence tests suggested that the maturing of intellectual power was finished by the time a student entered college; never again would capacity be higher.

William Perry


Contents:


Overview of the SID

The Scale of Intellectual Development was developed by my old pal Dary Erwin who is now at James Madison University. The SID is based on the developmental model of William Perry. Perry believed that although entering college students may have peaked in terms of the kind of intelligences measured by I.Q. tests, college students continued to change in the forms of seeing, knowing, and caring. Perry felt these changes reflected evolving frames of reference which caused changes in underlying cognitive structures.

Perry went on to create a model of these developmental changes, and it is this model that the Scale of Intellectual Development attempts to measure. The next section presents a summary table of Perry's model of intellectual development.

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The Stages of Intellectual Development According to Perry

Perry's original model differs a bit from the one Dary uses for the SID. The table below presents Perry's model as outlined by Perry in his Cognitive and Ethical Growth: The Making of Meaning, in Art Chickering and Associates The Modern American College, 1981 and as described in Magolda and Porterfield's Assessing Intellectual Development: The Link Between Theory and Practice, a publication of the American College Personnel Association.

Key words in describing each stage are italicized.

 

Stage Name

Stage Description

Dualism

Division of meaning into two realms -- good versus bad, right versus wrong. We versus They. All that is not success is failure. Right Answers are to be memorized by hard work. Knowledge is quantitative. Agency is experienced as external, residing in authority, test scores, the right job.

Multiplicity

Diversity of opinion and values is recognized as legitimate in areas where right answers are not yet known. Opinions remain atomistic without pattern or system. No judgments can be made among them so "everyone has a right to his own opinion; none can be called wrong."

Relativism

Diversity of opinion, values, and judgment derived from coherent sources, evidence, logic, systems, and patterns allowing for analysis and comparison. Some opinions may be found worthless, while there will remain matters about which reasonable people will reasonably disagree. Knowledge is qualitative, dependent on context.

Commitment

An affirmation, choice, or decision (career, values, politics, personal relationships) made in the awareness of relativism (distinct from commitments never questioned). Agency is experienced as within the individual with a fully internalized and coherent value structure.

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Perry also presents a more thorough view of the process of intellectual development which includes the transition from one stage to another. Below is an overview of this process.

The Stages in Transition

Stage Name

Position

Transition

Dualism

Position 1

This position is pure, closed structure. Uncertainty is not adequately perceived. Truth is out there and accepted. Authorities know, and if we work hard, read every word, and learn Right Answers, all will be well.

But what about those Others I hear about? And different opinions? And uncertainties? Some of our own authorities disagree with each other or don't seem to know, and some give us problems instead of answers.

Dualism

Position 2

Here there is the recognition of limited diversity. True authorities must be right, the others are frauds. We remain right. Others must be different and wrong. Good authorities give us problems so we can learn to find the right answers by our own independent thought.

But even good authorities admit they don't know all the answers, yet.

Dualism--->Multiplicity

Position 3

Here we see the realization that some truth remains unknown even to true authorities. Then some uncertainties and different opinions are real and legitimate temporarily, even for authorities. They're working on them to get to the truth.

But there are so many things they don't know answers to! And they won't for a long time.

Multiplicity

Position 4a

This position represents the beginning of the shift from certainty to uncertainty. Where authorities don't know the right answers, everyone has a right to his own opinion; no one is wrong.

But some of my friends ask me to support my opinions with facts and reasons. But the what right do they have to grade us? About what?

Multiplicity

Position 4b

In certain courses authorities are not asking for the right answer. They want us to think about things in a certain way, supporting opinion with data. That's what they grade us on.

But this way seems to work in most courses and even outside them.

Multiplicity-->Relativism

Position 5

Knowledge is now viewed as relative and contextual. Then all thinking must be like this, even for them. Everything is relative but not equally valid. You have to understand how each context works. Theories are not truth but metaphors with which to interpret data. You have to think about your thinking.

But if everything is relative, am I relative too? How can I know I'm making the right choice?

Relativism

Position 6

Here we see the acceptance of a truly relativistic world in which infinite contexts exist and that choosing is essential to avoid disorientation. I see I'm going to have to make my own decisions in an uncertain world with no one to tell me whether or not I am right.

I'm lost if I don't make my own decisions. When I decide on my career or marriage or values everything will straighten out.

Relativism-->Commitment

Position 7

This position marks the point of initial commitment in some important aspect of life such as values or career. Well, I've made my first Commitment.

Why didn't that settle everything?

Commitment

Position 8

Here we see the emergence of additional choices regarding the implementation of initial commitments. I've made several commitments. I've got to balance them; how many, how deep? How certain, how tentative?

Things are becoming contradictory. I can't make logical sense out of life's dilemmas.

Commitment

Position 9

Here we see the integration of commitments, and commitments are seen as ongoing activities. This is how life will be. I must be wholehearted while tentative, fight for my values yet respect others, believe my deepest values to be right yet be ready to learn. I see that I shall be retracing this whole journey again and again; but, I hope, more wisely

Back to square one.

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The Stages of Intellectual Development

According to Dary (reflecting Perry -- hey, that rhymes!) the Scale of Intellectual Development, there are four stages of intellectual development characteristic of college students. However, later research on the model has shown that most college students do not complete the cycle of stages and that development continues into adulthood.

Stage Name

Stage Description

Dualism

Dualistic thinking is characterized by binary thought processes. That is, met with a course which presents many theoretical positions on a given issue, the typical college freshman will ask, "so, which one is right?" The dualistic thinker sees the world as black and white, missing the many shades of gray. Respect for an authoritative position is a hallmark of dualistic thought.

Relativism

The relativistic thinker views the world from a multiplicity of perspectives. However, the relativistic thinker still looks to external authority for guidance. The relativistic thinker has a greater tolerance for uncertainty and can reference the context of an argument, thus, at least in a rudimentary fashion, evaluate the authority within that context. In other words, the relativistic thinker might evaluate a political argument depending upon whether the source was representing the Republican or the Democratic position.

Commitment

The commitment-level thinker sees the multiplicity of divergent viewpoints and has developed a coherent belief system. This thinker acknowledges alternative views but can argue the committed position in a cogent fashion while not punishing others for the alternative view. This thinker can walk a mile in another's shoes and modify cognitive structures accordingly within the frame of reference of a cohesive belief system.

Empathy

The empathetic thinker can genuinely see the world as others see it and is constantly aware of the impact of one's own belief system on the society and culture. The empathetic thinker is capable of using the view of others to defuse argumentation while presenting one's own position effectively. This thinker acknowledges the rights of others to divergent positions while maintaining a cohesive belief system.

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The Scoring of the SID

The SID is based on total scores which can be converted to a normed score based on an algorithm that Dary includes in his little manual. The following table presents the maximum raw scores for each of the stages.

 

Stage Name

Maximum Raw Score

Dualism

160

Relativism

110

Commitment

160

Empathy

110

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Frequently Asked Questions About the SID at V.M.I.

The SID is used at V.M.I. to assist in a host of predictions about intellectual and ethical development. The following are a few frequently asked questions the answers to which demonstrate why we continue to use this test to make those predictions.

1. Does the SID predict academic performance at V.M.I.?

The SID is a doubly-good predictor. While this sounds like doubly-talk (yuk), we have consistently found that the Dualism scores are negatively correlated with academic performance (as Dualism score goes up, academic performance goes down), and the Commitment scores are positively correlated with academic performance (as Commitment level score goes up, academic performance goes up as well).

 

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