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The Journal of General Education 49.3 (2000) 231-234

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Book Review

Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice.

Nancy J. Evans, Deanna S. Forney, & Florence Guido-DiBrito. (1998). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 348 pp. $32.95 (Cloth).


Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito, in Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice, have done more than address the latest themes currently being raised in higher education. Their all-too-rare and refreshing approach is to present the link between student development theory, research, and the practices of academic affairs and students affairs staff. In doing so, they serve to prepare informed general education policy shapers and practitioners who can plan and assess their general education purposes, actions, and results in light of what is theorized and known about student learning, development, and diversity.

The Text, Other Works, and General Education

This single volume may, for both the general education novice and the expert, be the most fitting theoretical entree to many of the works we now read on the themes of student learning, student development, assessment, and diversity. And for those who have long since forgotten the details of established theories or neglected the new theories of student development, this volume serves as a thorough but gentle refresher course.

Student Development in College is particularly well suited as a primer for several contemporary works that presuppose an understanding of student learning, development, assessment, and diversity. Although the passing of nearly a decade may demand that Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) update their important meta-research report, How College Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research, we will look to it as a key reference [End Page 231] even in the distant future. However, the research reported by Pascarella and Terenzini must be understood in its context, including the student development theory of that day, and only then can it be appropriately assessed as useful for practice. Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito review the context of this earlier work and then introduce new theories, including those relative to women and minorities.

Gaff, Ratcliff, and Associates (1997) and Stark and Lattuca (1997) focused their volumes on contemporary curricular issues and practices. They addressed enhancement of student learning, development, assessment, and response to diversity in curricular terms. However, many of the arguments in these important volumes are rooted in student development theory. Without Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito's thorough discussion of the student learning and development ends the curriculum seeks to meet, these contemporary curricular arguments are lost.

Likewise, the pedagogical paradigms put forward by Chickering and Gamson (1991) and Menges, Weimer, and Associates (1996) are strengthened by this volume. While these works were based upon research, the theories captured by Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito undergird that research. Student Development in College also informs the reader of Angelo and Cross (1993), who addressed student learning and development in terms of the assessment of various types of desired learning and developmental outcomes.

While Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito's main audience is clearly student affairs practitioners, there is considerable attention given to theory-based collaboration, an intersection between student affairs and academic personnel. This intersection is certainly a place where shapers and practitioners of general education policy should consider spending time if the goals of general education are to be met in the lives of students.

The Approach

Part 1 of the text is a masterful argument and strategy moving the reader from a historical overview of the development of student affairs thinking to how to use theory. The approach is a model to be emulated in the introduction of other areas of study, while the content is pointed enough to prepare the reader for a more proper [End Page 232] utilization of theory in designing learning and development practice. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the historical development of student affairs as it has moved closer to a linkage with academics. It also articulates a balance of the positivist, critical theory and constructivist paradigms, thus inviting...


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