Promoting development

There is a vast literature exploring ways to promote development. Much of this literature focuses on speeding up development, some of it focuses on optimizing development. Although both approaches are intended to support development, there is evidence that approaches focused on optimizing development are likely to do a better job. This is because development involves two intertwined processes, differentiation (broadening and deepening knowledge) and integration. In plain(er) English, you get more adequate integrations at each level if you accomplish rich differentiation at the prior level.

When we code an assessment, we pay close attention to the degree to which the test-taker elaborates each of the sub-skills it targets. In our personal feedback, we note areas of strength and areas that appear to require further growth. The basic idea is to bring all of the sub-skills up to an optimal level of elaboration to support the emergence of next-level integrations.

Most of the readings we suggest are targeted one to two phases (1/4 to 1/2 of a level) above the level of a given performance. This practice has been shown to provide the ideal level of challenge (scaffolding) for optimal growth. We also suggest activities like engaging in discourse with peers, journaling, cultivating a habit of reflection, and improving metacognitive skills, all of which provide support for growth.

We do not teach people to think at higher levels. Higher levels of performance emerge when knowledge is adequately elaborated and the environment supports higher levels of thinking and performance. We focus on helping people to think better at their current level and challenging them to elaborate their current knowledge and skills—including the not-so-sexy nuts-and-bolts knowledge required for success in any context.

Please follow and like us: