Decent; but Missing Some Valuable Research on College Impact
May 25, 2009
This collection of articles has some shining moments, but lacks some other articles that I think are important to the impact of college on students. There are 34 articles divided into five sections: the Path to College; the College Environment; Student Development and Identity; the Learning Experience; and a Summary and Considerations for Future Research.
(1) The Path to College The first section includes a lot of information on why students choose to attend college and what factors are considered when choosing an institution of higher education. This is important because since the early 1980s researchers have placed more focus on college choice because of the increased desire and interest from policymakers. There are articles that focus on a broad perspective of college choice, African American college choice when choosing Historically Black Colleges, and low-income student college choice. There is also research on the differences in college choice between different social classes. Finally, there is a closing article about policy implications in higher education concerning affirmative action, grants versus loans, standardized testing, and other policy matters that affect college choice.
(2) The College Environment The second section contains articles that focus on the college environment and student personalities. The article by Tinto (1986), "Theories of student departure revisited," is one of the most important articles in this ASHE Reader series (in my opinion). Tinto continues to improve his own "integration" theory while systematically reviewing and comparing other research on student departure. Social and academic integration in higher education are discussed at length and the significant importance of getting students involved both in their institution and in a social network. The other articles focus on campus climate and racial diversity and how to apply diversity to campus learning.
(3) Student Development and Identity The growth of students, both internally and externally is the focus of this section. I would recommend the "ASHE Reader: College Student Development Theory" (ISBN 0-536-85970-1) for a more complete collection of student development theories. However, this section of the reader focuses on student identity, including racial identity, white racial development, and sexual identity. The Reader that I recommended has more articles about each of these identity theories and is more complete overall; however, it clocks in at about the same size as this reader, so I suppose that this is a nice introduction and overview of student identity.
(4) The Learning Experience This section contains articles about student cognitive development and academic learning. Female learning and multicultural learning are also included. Finally, there is literature review by Terenzini, Pascarella, and Bliming (1996) about out-of-classroom learning and how that applies to student cognitive development.
(5) Summary and Considerations for Future Research This concluding section offers exactly what it says: consideration for future research and practice. The most notable article is Astin's (1996) "Involvement in learning revisited: lessons we have learned.
In conclusion, there is a decent coverage of college theories. The development section is relatively weak compared to a more complete collection. The articles and authors I mention above are simply my opinions after studying college impact theories based on this ASHE Reader. I think that there are some missing pieces (Kuh and some other Astin articles) that might have been important when considering student engagement and student involvement. Most of these articles can be found in the "Journal of College Student Development," "Review of Higher Education," "Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research," and the ACPA archives, if you have a membership or access to these resources.
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