How the Cognitive Development of Undergraduates Work?


You might have the brightest students in your undergraduate class, however, never fall under the impressionthat they are equipped with the highest level of cognitive maturity. It is a fact that nearly all the students enter their college or university degree program with some dire misconceptions about general knowledge, more precisely about their major. The same concept applies on advanced learners as well.

When the misconceptions are successfully countered, only then the learners will acquire the needed intellectual maturity through defined stages. Doesn’t matter if the student is in his or her junior or sophomore year and mostly hires a professional assignment writing specialist to cater various academic commitments, or is about to graduate and pursue their career or further studies, the mental growth is essentially called into action in various situations. This mainly falls on the opportunity, or rather a responsibility for the teacher to help the students in this regard.

Psychologist William Perry devised and presented a theory for college students on cognitive development. The intellectual development passes through a comprehensive 4-stage process where students progress after acquiring relevant instructions over the course of their tenure.

While Perry’s theory of intellectual development is applicable across a plethora of disciplines, it also means that the learner’s level on comprehension and reasoning might grow in any specific discipline, while not in other. For instance, a well-versed graduate from the engineering major won’t display the same intelligence and knowledge in humanities or social sciences disciplines too.

Although the detailed version of Perry’s theory stretches across nine positions, but below we are going to examine the simpler model. Understandably, how quick and far the student goes in his or her quest of mental maturity depends on the type and quality of instructions received.The element of flexibility is what makes the theory more useful and tempting for the educators hoping to drive the undergraduates’ mental growth.


Dualism, is the 1st position or the mental state that most freshmen in colleges arrive with. The term dualism used here by Perry explains that students new in the college perceive the world in black-and-white simplicity.Students stay strict with the belief on what to accept and how to react to standards depicting moral/immoral, true/false, and other basic academic and life principles. Here the most influential figures, including educators teach them the realities and illusions of life. Additionally, everything learned can be quantified, for example, like selecting the right answer in multiple choice questions (MCQs) assessment.


In the 2nd position, the students enter the general mental phase of multiplicity. The students clearly recognize that there is no such thing as a literal ‘Mr. Know-it-all’, and never expect even an expert to know everything. More importantly, any field allows multiple opinions to fight for the most reasonable and practical acceptance.On the other side, the students think that all the arguments and authorities are competent. Some students may not even give the opinion a second thought, rather consider it as the teacher’s just another exercise to lead them to the right answer.


In the 3rd position, the element of slight, actual consideration starts to come in. Learners begin to accept the idea that true uncertainty do exists, however, only in a temporary form as the educator and the learning process will eventually lead them to the correct answer.

The 4thposition is actually a continuity of relativism, the students tend to shift their opinion and express disbelief in the teacher’s ability to identify the “right” concept or answer. In doing so, they are actually considering all the ideas equally valid or permit opinions to be taken into account. In short, the learner becomes more of a relativist believing there is no “one” correct answer or fact.

In the 5th position, the students accept that everything consumed in their learning process is relativistic and contextual, however, within qualifications. They may save their dualistic concepts of right/wrong as minor cases in selective contexts. Therefore, in a relativistic scenario, they take specific cases where facts are mere “facts” coming with one genuine answer.

Understandably, there comes an instance where the student might find it increasingly difficult to handle all the inconsistencies and uncertainties gathered in the 5th position. The student does want to make the right choice, unfortunately unable to do so due to no clear standards learned. Consequentially, they feel that directing and aligning themselves with the relativistic world by associating a personal commitment with a bearing will help them in this regard.

As the need increases, the students enter a more general state of cognitive development into commitment, the 6th position. In the 7th position, the students make an actual, but a rather indefinite commitment to a specific perspective in a field.

Further when moving in the 8th position, the learners will experience and inquire the results and implications of their choice of commitment. This is where they start to understand and acknowledge what true commitment really is. Last, in the 9th position, students clearly realize that a commitment, either accepted fully or modified in some way or other, is taken as a major influence in the intellectual growth of college and university students.


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