Tingle and Self-Development

Nick Tingle’s
Self-Development and College Writing
(2004, SIU Press)
proposes a psychoanalytic stance on the "transitional space" of the
composition class.  Tingle’s argument leans heavily on Robert Kegan’s five orders
of consciousness–a quasi-Piagetian theory of stage-based psychological
development.  Phase one accounts for ages 2-6 (which, taken literally,
suggests pre-birth through the first twenty-four months of life are
non-conscious…discuss).  Tingle explains that some of the
discord felt between teachers and students can be attributed to our varied developmental
positions.  College-level writing students, in Tingle’s framework, match up with the third order of
consciousness (16), which is often defined by institutional forces and tends to
celebrate subjectivity (as in adolescence).  The fourth order in this model
accords with "’a qualitatively more complex system of organizing experience’"
(16); it is a more sophisticated order of self-truth that "somehow break[s] the
identifications of the self with its social roles" (17).  Tingle writes
that the modern university is designed to support students’ movement from the third
to the fourth order of consciousness, but because such moves involve
destabilization and "narcissistic wounding," the writing class might function to
enable and support.  Furthermore, writing teachers are often positioned at
the fourth order of consciousness (if not the fifth, which he correlates with
postmodernism (20)).  Teachers, therefore, must attend to their own
stage-orientation when defining viable writing projects and articulating
developmentally-appropriate expectations.  It can prove disastrous, in other
words, when fourth-order teachers presuppose their third-order students to be more
psychologically advanced.  Among the consequences: shame, embarrassment and humiliation (89).

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