A Visual Way of Understanding Student Development Theory

There are a handful books that I refer to as my “life changers,” or works that had a profound impact on me and my thinking long after I finished reading them.  One of these works is Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott.  Flatland is not only wonderfully geeky and nerdy, but it also forces one to think about reality beyond our current understanding.

Flatland is also a great way of understanding student development and stage-based developmental theories, visually.  In the presentation below, we’ll follow the adventures of A. Square.  Literally, a square, that lives in a two dimensional world.  He visits Lineland, Pointland, and is eventually visited by a sphere.

As you click through, think about the stages of Marcia Baxter Magolda’s and Robert Kegan’s theories of development.  Loosely, you can think about the move from Pointland to the four dimensions of the sphere as moving from absolute knowing to self-authorship or 1st order to 4th order.  You can also sometimes grasp the next dimension of your development, but maybe not quite reach it… similar to how A. Square can think about the 4th dimension, but not quite understand it.

Take a look:

Flatland also inspired a movie:

And a sequel, Flatland 2: Sphereland: