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Assessing Student Development: 1930s to the Present

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This brief review shows that a variety of theoretical and empirical models exist to guide the scholarly assessment of undergraduate student growth and development as well as the conditions that optimize progress toward desired outcomes.


The posting below is a very brief summary of the conceptual underpinnings of the assessment of college student development, with a number of excellent references for further reading. It is from Chapter Six, The Scholarly Assessment of Student Development by George D. Kuh, Robert M. Gonyea, and Daisy P. Rodriguez in Building a Scholarship of Assessment, by Trudy W. Banta and Associates. Published by Jossey-Bass A Wiley Company, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741. . Copyright ? 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Jossey-Bass is a registered trademark of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Rick Reis reis@stanford.,edu UP NEXT: The Changing Educational Scene

Tomorrow's Research


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>From Chapter 6 The Scholarly Assessment of Student Development George D. Kuh, Robert M. Gonyea, and Daisy P. Rodriguez

Student development assessment dates back to at least the 1930s with studies of both currently enrolled students (for example, Jones, 1938; McConnell, 1934; Pressy, 1946) and alumni (Havemann and West, 1952; Newcomb, 1943). Through much of the 1960s, the focus was on measuring attitudes, interests, and other aspects of personality functioning of traditional-age college students, such as authoritarianism and motivation for learning. The Omnibus Personality Inventory (OPI), the California Psychological Inventory, and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory were used frequently enough during the 1950s and 1960s to warrant the development of national norms. The OPI was particularly popular, becoming the instrument of choice for multiple institutional; studies of student development (Chickering, 1969; Clark and others, 1972). Then, as now, pencil-and-paper questionnaires tended to dominate assessment efforts, though some definitive work was done with individual interviews of alumni (for example, Newcomb, 1943; White, 1952) and enrolled students (Heath, 1968).

Interest in measuring the impact of college on students came of age in the 1960s, stimulated in large part by the publication of such classics as Changing Values in College (Jacob, 1957), The American College (Sanford, 1962), The Impact of College on Students (Feldman and Newcomb, 1969), Education and Identity (Chickering, 1969), No Time for Youth (Katz and Korn, 1968), and Growing up in College (Heath, 1968). This work, coupled with the emergence of the national college student research program of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (Astin, 1977; 1993), prompted the much-needed formulation of developmental theories in the 1060s and 1970s that described the complex, holistic processes by which students grow, change, and develop during the college years. The emergence of student development theory, in turn, shaped the next generation of assessment tools and processes. In fact, the conceptual underpinnings of many student development assessment tools are rooted in one or more of four categories: psychosocial theories, cognitive-structural theories, person-environment interaction theories, and typology models (Kuh and Stage, 1992; Rodgers, 1989; Widick, Knefelkamp, and Parker, 1980).

Psychosocial theories describe how individuals resolve challenges and personal growth issues at different stages or periods during the life cycle with the development of identity being central. Chickering's (1969) theory is the best known, holding that every student must master seven "vectors of development": developing confidence, managing emotions, developing autonomy, establishing identity, developing freeing interpersonal relationships, developing purpose, and developing integrity. The Student Developmental Task and Lifestyle Inventory (Prince, Miller, and Winston, 1974; Winston, 1990) measures three of Chickering's vectors: establishing and clarifying purpose, developing mature interpersonal relationships, and developing autonomy. Albert Hood, from the University of Iowa, and several of his doctoral students, developed a collection of instruments known as the Iowa Student Development Inventories, which, taken together, assess all but one of Chickering's seven vectors: developing integrity (Hood, 1986). Instruments have also been developed specifically to measure the psychosocial development of Blacks and Latinos, including Sue's Minority Identity Development model (Sue and Sue, 1990) and Cross's Model of Psychosocial Nigrescence (Cross, Strauss and Fhagen-Smith, 1999).

Cognitive structural theories describe the processes by which people move from fairly simplistic, dualistic ("right or wrong") judgments and reasoning abilities to more complicated, reflective understandings and constructions of reality. Among the prominent theorists in this family are Perry (1970), King and Kitchener (1994), Baxter Magolda (1992), Kohlberg (1981), Gilligan (1982), and Fowler (1981). Originally, development was assessed via standardized interview protocols, but, more recently, pencil-and-paper instruments have been developed to make measuring certain aspects of cognitive-structural development more feasible. In addition, certain of the theories and instruments have been adapted for use with Black and Latino students (see Atkinson, Morten, and Sue, 1993; Banks, 1993; Shaw, 2000).

Person-environment interaction theories hold that individual performance is optimized when one's needs and abilities are congruent with the demands of the environment (Strange and Banning, 2001). Although these models do not describe developmental processes or outcomes, they do help explain why some students find certain institutional environments compatible and others unappealing. This, in turn, contributes to student-institution fit and satisfaction, which directly and indirectly affect various aspects of student development (Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991) as well as student satisfaction and retention (Astin, 1977; Bean, 1986; Bean and Bradley, 1986; Pascarella and Terenzini, 1991; Tinto, 1993). Examples include Holland's theory of vocational choice (1973, 1985, 1994), Stern's need/press theory (1970), and Moos's social ecological approach (Moos, 1979; Moos and Brownstein, 1977; Moos and Insel, 1974), using such tools as the University Residence Environment scale (Moos and Gerst, 1976) and the Classroom Environment Scale (Moos and Trickett, 1976) to describe the characteristics of different environments.

Typology models sort individuals into categories according to their similarities and differences related to how they manage and cope with common developmental tasks inherent in the collegiate setting. Inventories using this approach have been developed by Myers-Briggs (Myers and Myers, 1995) and Kolb (Ballou, Bowers, Boyatzis, and Kolb, 1999; Boyatzis and Kolb, 1991). As with the person-environment models, typologies do not claim to describe development per se, but, rather, they explain individual preferences that can help predict performance under various circumstances. For example, after analyzing patters of student self-reported behavior, Kuh, Hu, and Vesper (2000) discovered eight dominant groups of undergraduates, some of whom were very engaged in educationally purposeful activities.

Another perspective that is increasingly being used to assess student development is to look at process indicators that represent the extent to which students engage in the activities that predict desired learning and personal development outcomes. Process indicators include such activities as studying, reading, writing, interacting with peers from diverse backgrounds, discussing ideas from classes and readings with faculty members, and so forth (Kuh, 2001a). The college student development research shows that these types of activities are precursors to high levels of student learning and personal development (Banta and Associates, 1993; Ewell and Jones, 1996). Among the better-known process indicators are the seven "good educational practices," such as setting high expectations and providing prompt feedback (Chickering and Gamson, 1997), as well as other features of student-centered learning environments, which include focusing resources on first-year students and creating a learner-centered culture (Education Commission of the States, 1995). This approach to assessing the student and institutional behaviors associated with student development is very appealing because it provides information that can be used immediately to improve undergraduate education. The conceptual underpinnings for this approach are consistent with Astin's "theory of involvement" (1984), Pace's concept of "quality of effort (1982), and the "involving colleges" framework described by Kuh and others (1991). Instruments that assess student engagement include the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (Pace and Kuh, 1998), The College Student Report (Kuh, 1999), and UCLA's College Student Survey.

This brief review shows that a variety of theoretical and empirical models exist to guide the scholarly assessment of undergraduate student growth and development as well as the conditions that optimize progress toward desired outcomes. Theory development is not complete, certainly-especially with regard to historically underrepresented groups such as racial and ethnic minority students and older students. For a more thorough treatment of the student development theories that undergird these and related assessment tools, see Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito (1998) and Rodgers (1989).


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