At a Glance


  • Social sciences

Instructional Level

  • College & CEGEP


  • Ethics
  • Knowledge

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Solving problems
  • Creating & designing
  • Writing

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building
  • Consolidation & metacognition


This activity is used to introduce students to the Perry Scheme of Student Intellectual and Ethical Development. Educational Psychologist William Perry identifies four major stages in student development: dualism, multiplicity, relativism and committed relativism.

Instead of being presented the Scheme with its categories and characteristics, the instructor creates a list of 4-5 statements related to each stage in Perry’s Scheme. These statements are cut up individually and mixed together in an envelope. Students, in groups, work in class to find patterns among the statements, and try to organize them back into coherent groups. They also give their own name to the student profile and they are encouraged to draw (or find) a picture of that student. (There is lots of room here to unpack stereotypes…) Students, as a class, then discuss the reasons for how they divided the statements. They identify patterns and highlight core characteristics that group certain statements

The instructor presents Perry’s Scheme and leads a discussion.

A suggestion would be to leave time to present challenges to and criticisms of Perry’s Scheme. For example, one could look at Baxter’s model of relational knowledge.

Instructional Objectives

  • Students identify and reflect on stages of intellectual development using the Perry Scheme developed by educational psychologist William Perry
  • Students will use Perry’s scheme to develop their understanding of critical thinking
  • The activity creates an opportunity to identify the learning context of the course and discuss the expectations around participation

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

  • The act of “creating” the scheme instead of having it delivered in a “top-down” approach makes students remember the essence of the scheme much better;
  • It introduces students to organizing thinking into a scheme, which is a valuable ability to have throughout an academic journey;
  • The active group work and discussion is a bonding experience for the class. Using students’ favourite “new” names for the student stages supports a class culture/personality as they explore critical thinking and ethics.
  • Creating the activity “kit” – the statements, envelopes and instructions – can take a lot of time the first time!
  • Setting up instructions so that people really share the work – dividing statements equally among students and asking the person who is “least busy” (meaning the one who is participating less) to write down the statements pushes everyone to participate equally;
  • If there are no boards in the classroom, then students can use large pieces of paper;
  • To make the activity part of the course, it is important for the instructor to take pictures of each group’s work, share it among students and possibly use the new names students came up with;
  • To ensure improved understanding and retention, the instructor can then post the “classical” names of the scheme with the right statements under them and then ask students to apply to an example relevant to class (i.e. how they engage with a text, an idea, each other, or an assignment).

Applied Strategies


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