Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Abdelwahed Zhiri, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the utility of a structural-developmental approach as a basis for a philosophy of education for the public community college of the Midwestern United States. The structural developmental approach was explored within the broader cognitive studies of the Piagetian tradition in America. The method of research employed was a combination of analysis of relevant literature and empirical investigation at a community college. This combination was explored in order to determine the possible abstraction of a structural-developmental pattern as a potential base for theory building. A research instrument was used to assess the cognitive stage of development of critical groups of students. The drop, course withdrawal. Grade point average, and cognitive stage data of lower ability vocational-technical, lower ability transfer, and upper ability students were compared and analyzed, with a .05 level of significance as the criterion for differences. Regarding the relationships of vocational-technical courses and transfer courses, the following observations seemed justified concerning the abstraction level required: (1) no evidence was gained to support the action of a true difference in abstraction level required (2) limited data from other literature offered no substantial support for a true difference, and (3) an argument from silence suggested no true difference.

Regarding supportive evidence for the utility of a cognitive-developmental-structural approach to the rural community college educational task, the following summary of findings seemed justified: (l) course withdrawal, grade point average, and cognitive stage data of upper ability

and lower ability student’s appeared to indicate a utility for the approach (2) consistency theory offered the possibility of a favorable climate for an interactional (naturalistic and environmental) approach such as was investigated (3) the literature within the community college framework suggested the need for a more comprehensive philosophy than had crystalized; and (4) the literature which had explored the ramifications of the Piagetian tradition in America provided a rationale for a cognitive-developmental-structural approach. From the findings and the results of the analyzed information in this study, the following conclusions seemed justified: (l) evidence from liter3ture and empirical investigations demonstrated the need for a broadly based psychology of education not presently apparent in the community college movement (2) vocational-technical programs presented no unique solution to the breadth of the educational task: (3) diversity in student capability demanded a more universal basis for a philosophy of education: (4) evidence from the literature and empirical

inquiry destroyed the myth that the Piagetian tradition was age-bound at a level below community college functions: (5) Piagetian tradition provided a universal kind of basis for a philosophy of education: (6) natural diversity of the college setting studied was conducive to a broadly based psychology of the individual student; (7) cognitive stages were abstracted from the mental functions of students involved in the study and found to be relevant to the educational processes of the community college: and (8) implementation of a definitive cognitive-developmental approach to the educational task of grades thirteen and fourteen would have the advantage of providing a continuity with the educational modes of grades one through twelve.

Recommendations that seemed warranted were (1) recognition of the utility of a structural-developmental approach (2) acceptance of qualitative differences in stages of mental development (3) an incremental approach to the developmental tasks, (4) instructional

design accommodating invariant stages of thought development: (5) involvement of instructors in affective and motivational teaching (6) exploration of new techniques and approaches and (7) replication of notions and techniques of the structural-developmental approach to the

educational task of the rural community college.