Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory for Higher Education

 

Big Idea Update (if you would care to skip to lightning round it is bolded below): 

To preface this week’s lightning round I’d like to offer a brief refinement of my project’s thesis and general intentions. I argue, alongside many others, that the best way to retain students is by giving them opportunities to feel more connected to the school they are attending-i.e., students are retained when they are involved. Yet, unlike the others, I intend to look one step beyond student involvement.

Instead of simply citing involvement as a means of retaining students, I am interested in how student-created and student-sustained cogenerative programs can further increase retention rates, specifically on community college campuses and even more specifically for first-generation, low-income, students. What I mean when I say cogenerative draws from theory centered around cogenerative dialogues, in which it is posited that students and teachers work best when they work together in an attempt to install practices within the pedagogical space (this requires students and teachers to share the burden of “educating” so to speak and clearly falls outside of the normative standard).

For my purposes, think of a peer-mentoring program that does not simply recruit in need students for its ranks, pairing them with students who have demonstrated success by way of some incentive. Unlike the typical peer-mentoring program though, which draws heavily upon the influence of credential “experts” to be installed, a cogenerative program would instead draw from the expertise of the student base it intends to serve. The only incentive will be the program itself; the only expert the student. Functionally, students who are typed “at risk” upon entry into a community college space (which may very well be the majority) will be automatically paired with a mentor who, themselves, was at one time a mentee. In short, first-year students will be mentees or “novices”, garnering both academic knowledge and general college-orientation whereas second-year students, their close partners, will be considered mentors or “experts” helping to guide a set group of individuals that, outside of the scope of a few, rather challenging months, are no different from themselves. Hence, the program is cogenerative by nature as its recipients and “employees” are really on in the same.  I believe that if such a program can be functionally implemented, a new culture of “educational citizenship” and a new studentship or “educational citizenry” will in turn result. This is my big idea. 

As I have many ideas and little time I will, for now, keep it within the realm of a policy paper of sorts and look to the relevant research as my guide.

Now to the lightning round:

https://www.middlesex.mass.edu/ace/downloads/astininv.pdf

For this week I read  “Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory of Higher Education” an article by Alexander W. Astin, who argues for the importance of student involvement or “the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience” to student success. Alternate theories include the Subject Matter Theory and the Research Theory, both of which are problematic for reasons that will remain undiscussed in this blog post.

Rapidly cruising in the direction of the more relevant material, Astin’s  theory of involvement has 5 pillars, the last two appearing particularly essential to my big idea. As directed,

“4. The amount of student learning and personal development associated with any educational program is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of student involvement in that program.

5. The effectiveness of any educational policy or practice is directly related to the capacity of that policy or practice to increase student involvement.”

It would seem then that, by extension, my idea falls neatly in line.

I see my work as building upon this theory by directly examining the role of peer mentorship and the extent to which student involvement can be sustained on a campus-wide level-perhaps by way of a major cultural upheaval.

Much of Astin’s work will serve to provide me with a general framework moving forward, as I search for the “desirable limits to involvement” and how best to go about crafting my idea in pragmatic terms.

More to come.

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