There is around 9 years of research supporting the Constructed Development Theory as well as a doctoral degree.

Please feel free to watch this talk I gave in Manchester Business School recently as it describes my theory. It’s only an hour long…

Copyright Dr Darren Stevens and Coventry University 2020

Here is the Abstract from my thesis on which the theory is founded:


In general, individuals are not aware of how they construct their thinking and the unconscious intentions behind this construction that leads to a cognitive and behavioural response in the moment. Essentially, they lack the metacognitive capacity to think about their thinking from a developmental perspective. Joiner and Josephs (2007) stated that self-awareness and intention were the mechanisms that made growth between developmental stages possible.

This dissertation provides an original contribution to knowledge regarding the use of cognitive heuristics to facilitate cognitive growth, which has not been previously seen in the literature. The primary aim of this study was to investigate the extant literature on stage development psychology, metacognition, thinking and intelligence to determine if any gaps exist from the perspective of intention, awareness, choice and response which together lead to an habituated thinking style. A further aim that emerged throughout the research was to discover if a new measure of self-awareness was possible using thinking shortcuts defined in the literature review as metacognitive strategies. These were then tested across 5 separate but inter-dependent studies.

The Methodology chapter highlighted certain aspects of existing profile tools that omit the underlying intention and awareness of the facets being described. Study 1 investigated the potential to use a specific methodology, including the use of Meta-Programmes via the Identity Compass profile tool to deconstruct post-graduate students’ thinking in context. Study 2 used this methodology to investigate the thinking of 177 post-graduate students to discover if there were patterns of Meta-Programmes that were common to all participants, which might then identify particular ‘Thinking Styles’. Further to this, to determine if a benchmark tool could be created to normalise the Identity Compass profile output. Also in study 2, Meta-Programmes were reframed as Cognitive Intentions by virtue of the additional inherent factors of their Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response. Study 3 utilised a large dataset initially as a control group to either reinforce or repudiate the artefactual findings of studies 1 and 2.

The findings of study 3 were significant and supported the concepts of Thinking Styles based on different combinations of Cognitive Intentions. It also supported the creation of a benchmark tool called the Thinking Quotient, and the use of the term ‘Dynamic Intelligence’, a combination of Intention, Awareness, Choice and Response, as the process on which Constructed Development Theory (CDT) is based. Study 4 investigated these theoretical four pillars of CDT via a self-report questionnaire that compared the self-report scores to the Identity Compass scores of the same 13 Cognitive Intentions to determine if awareness was present. The results showed individuals were developmentally limited. Finally, study 5 aimed to validate the four quantitative studies with a qualitative study to ascertain the lived experiences of the ten interviewees from a Constructed Development perspective. The themes that emerged from the interviews demonstrated that the interviewees both consciously and unconsciously utilised Thinking Styles as a function of their self-awareness from a Constructed Development Theory perspective.

Limitations were identified that provided direction for future research and longitudinal study of Constructed Development Theory as a framework for cognitive growth. The thesis concludes with a summary of what might be described as metacognition for adults: the theory of Constructed Development and the use of the Thinking Quotient tool as a measure of the process of Dynamic Intelligence. DI thus becomes the bridge between Constructivism and Constructionism as we construct our thinking in context. This also demonstrated that stage development is only one interpretation of how adults develop cognitively and an alternate interpretation is to raise self-awareness to facilitate growth.

Keywords: cognition, cognitive, complexity, dynamic, intelligence, intention, awareness, stage development, metacognition, choice, response.

The basic propositions of Constructed Development Theory are the following: 

  1. People actively construct ways of understanding and making sense of themselves and their world. 
  2. There are identifiable patterns of intention-construction that people share in common with one another; these are traditionally referred to as stages, orders of consciousness, ways of knowing, levels of development, organising principles, Thinking Styles, or orders of development. 
  3. In CD terms, orders of development unfold in a non-specific sequence, with each successive order transcending the previous order, but not necessarily sequentially. 
  4. A higher-TQ person has a different Thinking Style to the lower-TQ person and is capable of combining their Cognitive Intentions to replicate the lower TQ style.
  5. Conversely, the lower-TQ thinker is not capable of balancing their Cognitive Intentions in such a way as to think at a higher order without guidance from a higher-order thinker who can see their imbalance.
  6. In general, people do not regress; once a grade on the TQ scale has been constructed, the lower orders lose their organising function, but remain as a perspective that can be reflected upon.
  7. Because subsequent orders are more balanced in their CI awareness, they support a more comprehensive understanding than earlier orders; later orders are not better in any absolute sense.
  8. Developmental movement from one order to the next is driven by growth in the current way of identifying and constructing awareness; this can happen when a person faces increased complexity in the environment that requires a more dynamically intelligent way of understanding themselves and the world. 
  9. An individual’s order of development influences what they notice or can become aware of, and therefore, what they can describe, reflect on, and change. This process is their Dynamic Intelligence.

– Derived from Cook-Greuter (2004) in Palus, Magellan & Steadman (2016)