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Working Title: A Dialectical Approach to
Post-Adolescent Development

Paul G. Saint-Amand, Ed.D.
Professor of English
Northern Essex Community College

Michael Basseches, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Suffolk University

Most academics, particularly those at liberal arts institutions, assert that they do more than teach a specific subject matter. They believe that their instruction encourages the development of mature forms of reasoning and thinking. Unfortunately, they rarely specify what such improvement involves. Moreover, they seldom measure, in direct and systematic ways, their contributions to this endeavor.

In this sequel to Dialectical Thinking and Adult Development (Ablex, 1984), Paul Saint-Amand and Michael Basseches apply Basseches’s well-regarded model of dialectical thinking to the college classroom. They posit that intellectual growth and maturity involve the willingness to confront the many credible ways of interpreting the world that emerge from divergent assumptions. Using the classroom experiences of first-year college students and of graduate students in English and Communication, the authors show that students do not resolve the challenges such interpretations create in the course of a semester or even by completing a degree program. Instead, they hold that education serves students when students are encouraged in the development of the intellectual and emotional strategies that will enable them to accept conflicting ideas and attempt their reconciliation.

If they are to assist students in gaining the habits of mind that will lead to improved reasoning and thinking, educators, the authors maintain, should acknowledge their own discomfort in the pursuit of what is true and valuable.  Along with their students, educators should be willing to let go of a point of view in which every question has a precise answer and accept that one will often find no resolution to urgent issues and that what seem to be answers usually just opens new lines of investigation.

Although this book is intended for everyone who cares about the process of thinking, it is aimed especially at researchers and educators who are involved with post-adolescent development and who are interested in how to measure the effects of instruction in improving a student’s thinking and reasoning.

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