An investigation of intellectual growth in undergraduate biology students using the Perry scheme
It has been the work of many science educators all over the world to try and design curricula that could help encourage intellectual growth in students. One influential work in this area was done by William Graves Perry, who managed to use students' own experiences to map out a scheme elaborating the different phases through which college students pass as they progress from year to year. This showed that students' thoughts develop from a state of basic dualism, where all is viewed as qualitative extremes without intermediates, to acknowledgement of multiplistic perspectives, through to recognition of the relativistic nature of knowledge. Perry suggests that instructors have to find out about their students' positions along this developmental continuum in order to carve around these proper support, encouragement, and challenges necessary for ensuring further development. Communication of expectations and aims of courses is also imperative. Research has shown that students' approach to learning is usually modelled around what they perceive as being expected of them. Perry's scheme is a suitable tool for ensuring this communication, because through it, students get to relay their expectations to the staff. Based on Perry's scheme, an attempt was made to develop a questionnaire that could be used for the investigation of intellectual growth in undergraduate biology students. This comprised of one section with opposing typical Perry 'A' (least advanced) and 'C' (most advanced) type statements, and a second free-response section where students had to justify their positions to given Perry 'A' and 'C' type statements. It was administered at universities of Botswana and Glasgow, Modified versions were also administered to pupils in two Glasgow High Schools and staff at the University of Glasgow. The aim was to find out if intellectual thought improved with progress from lower to higher educational levels and whether the staff's expectations matched those of students. The results from the two universities were also compared to find out if progress in the two universities followed the same pattern, and to see if Perry's scheme could be applied to students coming from totally different backgrounds.