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Student Development & Learning: It Takes a Village



Young Adults

By Elaine Guerrazzi | October 7, 2019

A few days ago, I came across an article from the Leadership Exchange by Tull (2018) titled Revisiting the Student Personnel Point of View (SPPV).  The American Council on Education Committee on Student Personnel Work (1937) report The Student Personnel Point of View was one of the first documents supporting development of the total student.  SPPV provided higher education with the guiding principles focusing on the collaborative responsibility of educating young adults.

“…the full maturing of each student cannot be attained
without interest in and integrated efforts toward
the development of each and every facet
of his/her personality and potentials.”

Tull’s article points out that the SPPV initiated the call for cooperation between and across disciplines. 

“We must remind ourselves of the value
of shared partnerships to create conditions
that matter for those that we currently serve and
for future students.”

Reading Tull’s article reminded me of my work in higher education.  You can read more about my background and see that I am a supporter of those who believe it is the role of the entire institution to ensure student development and learning.

It has been 80+ years since the American College Personnel Association published the SPPV and 30 years since I completed my doctoral research addressing the impact of the out-of-class experience on student development.  The guiding principles that framed my philosophy and pointed the direction of my research and career path resulted from works expanding on the tenets of the Student Personnel Point of View.  Below I want to share a historical perspective on the academic/co-curricular connection and make some associations to today.  As you read the comments below think about your own educational experience. Consider how each segment of your development and learning intertwines.

Havighurst (1953) wrote about human development and education He stated in the opening remarks of his book that “living is learning and growing is learning.  To understand human development, one must understand learning.  The human individual learns his way through life.” 

Even today I aspire to put action to these words through my blog as I write about how we can integrate wellness, lifelong learning, and personal development.  Human development (our personal development) cannot be categorized by a chronological age, it is a lifelong process of acquiring, analyzing, and synthesizing information, ideas, and experiences. It is the process of learning.

Today educational philosophy emphasizes how learning takes place under varied circumstances outside of the traditional teacher-centered classroom experience.  We hear increasingly more about student-centered learning, action learning, leisure learning. There is a need for engaging activities that continue to connect the academic and co-curricular aspects of learning.

B.B. Crookston (1972) defines student development as the “application of the philosophy and principles of human development in the education setting” (p.12).  Specifically related to higher education, student development describes the impact of the institutional environment and experiences on students.  Loy and Kenyon, 1969 and Moore 1966 describe the sport environment as a mini-society or a participatory model of life.  If we agree that this is a valid description, it should follow that the development in the larger world and those in the sport environment are similar. I have discussed in prior blogs my thoughts on the impact of sports participation on development.  Harding (1971) grounds my connection of the academic/co-curricular experiences as an education goal by stating that “participation in sport as strictly recreational is passe.” (p. 39).  These ideas apply to any out-of-class experience.  Again, consider how each segment of your development and learning intertwines.

The vast potential for development during early adulthood is one of the major challenges in higher education today.  We generally agree that attending college has a significant effect of both the continuous and cumulative development of young adults.  Early adulthood described by Havighurst (1950), is not only the most individualistic period of life but also the fullest of teachable moments.  The phrase total student development (body, mind, spirit) often included in college mission statements as a descriptor of the college experience. I wrote about aligning departmental mission and goals with institutional priorities in my blog Recreational Sports Contributes to Student Development. Creating a collaborative teaching and learning community striving to meet this mission is the key to enhancing student development. 

Student development philosophy became the foundation of higher education. With this increased awareness of total student development, it places more responsibility on the individual student to be an active participant in his or her own development. 

Miller (1982) and Widick, Knefelkamp, and Parker (1980) outline the aims of higher education.  The purpose of higher education is not developed in a vacuum.  Society is a result of the educational system as much as the system is a result of society. American higher education focuses on self-realization, human relationship, and civic responsibility.  Ever since the SPPV administrators adopted a developmental orientation emphasizing and responding to the whole person, attending to individual differences, and working with students at their level of development.  

Developmental and learning contributions in and out of the classroom setting continue to be widely accepted.   The purpose of the out-of-class programs took on a more integrated approach. The focus was to provide students with opportunities that will aid them in achieving a better state of being.  We should direct all these experiences toward the individual’s total development: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual. These experiences incorporate attitudes and behaviors such a promoting independence, critical thinking, citizenship, helping individuals to understand self and other, and managing emotions.

American higher education charges the professional community with three broad functions.  These functions are teaching, research, and service.  Higher education personnel strive to transform intent and apply theory to practice.  Student development theory serves as a core construct around which we had set goals, developed and organized programs, and evaluated outcomes.  

Doyle (2004) wrote:

In the mid-1980s, the Study Group on the Conditions for Excellence in Higher Education and several other groups (AAC, 1985; Boyer, 1987) were advocating the importance of student learning in higher education. A group of student affairs leaders recognized this move toward learning and were intrigued by the role of students’ active involvement in learning. These leaders, who included George Kuh, John Schuh, and Elizabeth Whitt, acknowledged the critical role of student affairs in stimulating student involvement in learning and strategically positioned student affairs at the crux of student learning outside the classroom. In their 1991 book Involving Colleges: Successful Approaches to Fostering Student Learning and Development Outside the Classroom (Kuh et al.), the authors compiled a summary of the research documenting the positive impact of the out-of-class environment on student involvement in learning. The book was based on a one year investigate on of how 14 four-year colleges and universities created intellectually stimulating environments outside of class. This book was closely followed by The Role and Contribution of Student Affairs in Involving Colleges (Kuh & Schuh, 1991) which used case studies to identify the steps that student affairs divisions could take in creating an involving college.

The understanding of the relationship of personal development and learning began to evolve. Student involvement in learning was the key to successful development and learning. I make the argument that a by-product of involvement is learning.

Additional publications from higher education organizations have been recognized for promoting student learning and encouraging collaboration across campus include:

The Student Learning Imperative (1996)  Discusses how out-of-class experiences can enhance student learning and personal development.

Principles of Good Practice (1997)  Outlines guidelines to achieve the educational missions by focusing on student learning.

Powerful Partnerships (1998)  All those who take part in the educational mission of institutions of higher education — students, faculty, and staff — share responsibility for pursuing learning improvements. 

Learning Reconsidered (2004)  Argues for integrating higher education’s resources in the education and preparation of the whole student. 

Learning Reconsidered 2 (2006)  Provide guidelines on how to put into practice the recommendations in Learning Reconsidered.

Today these publications guide the work in higher education.

**Preston & Peck (2016) cite Learning Reconsidered when discussing leadership development influenced by out-of-class experiences.

**Henning (2016) cite Learning Reconsidered when discussing assessment of the out-of-class experience.

**One of the most recent applications of the above works is Dunlap (2019).  She writes, in the NASPA Blog, an article on Online Learning Reconsidered.

The goal of higher education IS to enhance personal development and student learning.  Over the past 80+ years the path to achieve this goal has changed and evolved.  However, I think, and I believe that through all this time we as educators have two fundamental principles.

**First…higher education program depends heavily on the characteristics of the students attending  

**Second…higher education must recognize that there is more to learn than what is in books.

Student Learning, It Takes a Village

Practitioners and educators can operationalize these ideas by:

1. Don’t tell students, ask them to discover. The more we tell them, the less they learn.

2. We are here to guide, to help, to goad, to irritate, to stimulate, to make suggestions, point out problems, and above all, ask questions.

3. We are here to help them become their own explorers, inquirers, questioners, discoverers, experimenters.

4. We are here to help students learn how to learn and to learn to teach themselves.

5. We are here to raise questions, not provide answers; they are here to learn to question answers, not answer questions. 

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