5.8 Intellectual development and intellectual classes

It is fairly straightforward to connect the five intellectual classes as proposed earlier to the six- stage development sketched by van Rossum and Hamer. For example the intellectual slave class has no personal autonomy and conform level 1 “the teaching-learning process is defined entirely by the teacher”. The intellectual lower class has learned certain competences under the guidance of others which complies with a level 2 description that “Learning more is being able to reproduce more in a teacher dominated environment.” This translates easily to “Working is being able to produce under supervision” as typical lower (social) class description.

Level 5 was described as broadening one’s outlook on things, opening one’s mind, widening horizons, or looking “at the world with those eyes”, which dovetails with the intellectual upper class description as “they have learned that all experiences and all sources of knowledge are of potential interest so that they gradually become more competent and more autonomous for more and more of the time.” The intellectual elite was described as self-actualizing individuals who, as outlined in the previous section, gradually bring more pervasive aspects of life part of their understanding.

To completely match the 6 levels of intellectual development with the intellectual classes it is possible to split the intellectual middle class into a lower-middle class and an upper-middle class. The first one corresponds to level 3, just below the watershed, and the second to level 4 above the watershed. The key difference separating the intellectual lower-middle class from the upper-middle class may be the discovery that all knowledge is connected; that it doesn’t really matter what you learn as long as it is connected to the other things you know so that it can be made serviceable at arbitrary moments in the future. This leads to the awareness that knowledge in principle can be integrated (understood) and used pervasively through life. To requote part of the learning and teaching conception of level 4:

Such students prefer teachers who: 1) challenge students to (start to) think for themselves, 2) encourage students to realize that multiple informed approaches and solutions to problems are possible, 3) encourage and coach students to develop “a way of (disciplinary) thinking” through 4) a less formal — confidence building — interpersonal relationship. (van Rossum & Hamer, 2010) (page 31) For the first time in life, this inspires the student to take partial control over its own learning process, which forms the basis of true autonomy and it is therefore highly empowering. At the same time these first steps towards further confidence building for future autonomy may be a bit frightening and are likely to benefit from a supportive environment that they search for.


This then lead to the following development shown in Figure Epistemological development. The modern AAC&U goal for higher education is to aim for level 5 (AACUNational Leadership Council (U.S.), 2007), well above the watershed and probably quite ambitious.