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Development as the Reorganization of Skills

A natural but sometimes overlooked starting point for a conversation about student development is with a definition of development. As Feldman and Newcomb (1969) pointed out in their classic volume on college impact, it is important to differentiate development from change (a difference in an attribute over time) and growth (an increase in an attribute). From within the constructive developmental tradition, development is defined as the evolution of 2014 Swiss Replica Watches skills (defined broadly to include abilities, capacities, ways of understanding) over time, where early level skills are reorganized into higher-level skills that allow individuals to manage more complex units of information, perspectives, and tasks.

As individuals use their new reorganizations, they apply these new ways of thinking to new problems and in new contexts, and in the process of applying and practicing these new skills, consolidate a new way of understanding. The evolution of skills provides the individual with a broader repertoire of possible responses; more importantly, it provides access to higher order responses based on skills that better equip an individual to respond to changing environmental conditions. Developing more complex ways of organizing what and how one knows is tantamount to changing one's worldview or literally, one's "habits of mind." When Mezirow (1997) called for educational practices that go well beyond inculcating specified points of view and that are instead transformative, he astutely observed, "Habits of mind are more durable than points of view". This observation is consistent with the way skills are organized that reflects a developmental orientation, that there is Replica U Boat Watches greater strength (or durability) in a structure of reasoning than there is in a point of view, which can more easily be changed.

Mezirow's (1997) contrast between a habit of mind and a point of view also suggests the difference between two key concepts that are very important in this definition of development, content and structure. In making interpretations about developmental level, content refers to the "what" of a belief, such as the outcome of a decision (e.g., which candidate a person voted for), whereas structure refers to the underlying assumptions guiding the decision-making process, such as whether and how the voter weighed factors influencing the decision, such as a candidate's experience, espoused values, the needs of a given office at the time of the election, the reactions of others to the candidates, and polls about the race. Because structure rather than content reflects the organization of thinking that is at the heart of development and developmental change, developmental assessment relies on evidence of structure. For example, two people could vote for the same candidate (content), but for reasons that reflect different habits of mind. If Student A's decision is based on a desire to vote the same way as his or her peers, and Student B's vote is based on an evaluation of the candidates' strengths and weaknesses and the correspondence of their views to his or her own values and priorities, the more complex structure of Student B's rationale would place Student B's reasoning at a higher developmental level. As Perry (1970) noted, "The advantage in mapping development in the forms Tag Watches For Sale of seeing, knowing, and caring lies precisely in their transcendence over content".

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