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Much has been made in experiential learning circles of the implications of empirical findings in developmental psychology for the formulation of a theoretically convincing rationale for field experience education programs of every kind. Of particular significance has been the identification of cognitive structural stages of intellectual, moral, social and ego development through which individuals have been shown to progress--structural transformations of the individual's intra- and interpersonal capacities which closely mirror the traditionally articulated goals of higher education for students' growth. Even as such concepts have been advanced, however, practitioners have voiced persistent reservations about the theory's seeming elitism, the values that appear to be implicit in this view of human beings, and the difficulties of translating the concepts into specific administrative and teaching strategies for improving the quality of a working program. This paper will attempt to defuse the most commonly advanced criticisms by reformulating those tenets of structural- developmental theory that have been particularly prone to misinterpretation, thus enabling practitioners to reconsider the implications of developmental theory for both educational means and ends, that is for both how we plan and structure our programs and what we plan and structure them to achieve. In the process, the authors hope to provide concrete guidance for practitioners in how to design and conduct programs according to developmentally sound principles of good practice and to open an unabashed dialogue about whether development thus interpreted is what field experience education should be about.


PANEL Resource Paper #8.

Copyright 1982, Peer Assistance Network in Experiential Learning, National Society for Internships and Experiential Education (NSIEE).