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College Student Development Theories

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The experiences of college students have been researched for decades. Many scholars have looked at a variety of issues, such as what benefits a college education brings, how and in what ways students develop and mature in college, which kinds of college experiences tend to be positive or negative, and what leads to a person dropping out or leaving college, to name a few. Many theories have emerged over the years that illuminate various aspects of the college experience. Each of them contributes to an overall understanding of a student’s experience in college. Five in particular are very useful in exploring the first-year experience: Chickering’s Seven Vectors of College Student Development, Perry’s Nine Positions of Cognitive Development, Tinto’s Model of Institutional Departure, Kohlberg’s Six Stages of Moral Development, and Schlossberg’s Transition Theory. These five theories, in combination, provide a well-rounded understanding of the general college experience.

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College Student Development Theories

  1. 1. COLLEGE STUDENT DEVELOPMENT THEORIES Danielle Quiñones Ortega, M.A. Student Programs Coordinator Office of Student Life, UCSB
  2. 2. THEORY DRIVEN BY PRACTICE
  3. 3. CHICKERING’S SEVEN VECTORS Vector 1 Developing Competence Vector 5 Establishing Identity Vector 3 Moving Through Autonomy to Interdependence Vector 7 Developing Integrity Vector 6 Developing Purpose Vector 2 Managing Emotions Vector 4 Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships
  4. 4. VECTOR 1 | DEVELOPING COMPETENCE oIntellectual Skills oInterpersonal Skills oManual and Physical Skills
  5. 5. VECTOR 2 | MANAGING EMOTIONS & VECTOR 3 | MOVING THROUGH AUTONOMY TO INTERDEPENDENCE
  6. 6. VECTOR 4 | DEVELOPING MATURE INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS & VECTOR 5 | ESTABLISHING IDENTITY o Tolerance, acceptance, appreciation o Acceptance and comfort of personal of differences issues o Capacity for intimacy in relationships o body and appearance o gender identity and sexual orientation o sense of self (social, historical, and cultural)
  7. 7. VECTOR 6 | DEVELOPING PURPOSE & VECTOR 7 | DEVELOPING INTEGRITY
  8. 8. PERRY’S NINE POSITIONS OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
  9. 9. TINTO’S MODEL OF INSTITUTIONAL DEPARTURE
  10. 10. SCHLOSSBERG’S TRANSITION THEORY
  11. 11. THEORY IS… o DESCRIPTIVE not PERSCRIPTIVE o Serve as a foundation o Helps us guide our practice o Makes Student Affairs nerds happy!

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