"Socialized Into the Field":Exploring How Higher Education and Student Affairs Faculty Members Are Socialized to Teach Student Development Theory
Higher education and student affairs (HESA) faculty members who teach student development theory (SDT) courses are integral to socializing future professionals to SDT and to the organizational culture, or the norms, behaviors, and values, of HESA. Although faculty members are important socializing agents, how they teach SDT courses and the ways their teaching dis/engages socialization processes and organizational culture remain underexamined. This study was focused on HESA faculty members who teach SDT. I explored 2 research questions: What organizational norms, behaviors, and values are HESA faculty members socialized to implement in SDT courses? and How do HESA faculty members adopt or challenge these norms, behaviors, and values through their SDT courses? Using socialization as a guiding framework and with a qualitative approach, I generated 3 themes from 18 HESA faculty members' stories of teaching SDT: (a) "I taught as I was taught": socialized to create a culture of affirmation, (b) the primacy of The Book, and (c) the dis/placement of foundational theories.
Student development theory (SDT) is a foundation for the field of higher education and student affairs (HESA; McEwen, 2003; McEwen & Talbot, 1998; Patton, McEwen, Rendón, & Howard-Hamilton, 2007; Patton, Renn, Guido, & Quaye, 2016). Student development theories provide "a common language and shared understanding" (Reason & Kimball, 2012, p. 368) for campus professionals "to identify and address student needs, design programs, develop policies, and create healthy college environments that encourage positive growth in students" (Patton et al., 2016, p. 8). The understanding that SDT is a common language and guiding principle for the profession may be why most US HESA graduate preparation programs offer SDT courses (Kuk & Cuyjet, 2009).
Within SDT courses, HESA faculty members' curricular design and delivery may be fundamental to socializing graduate students to the norms, behaviors, and values surrounding SDT specifically and the profession broadly (Kuk & Cuyjet, 2009; Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008). Through processes of socialization, many graduate students and faculty members learn, relearn, and adopt the knowledge and skills necessary to make them effective participants within their organization's culture, or the shared norms, beliefs, and values of an organization (Gardner, 2007; Tierney, 1988; Tierney & Bensimon, 1996; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993; Weidman, Twale, & Stein, 2001). Yet, socialization is "contestable" and HESA faculty members may teach SDT in manners that challenge, critique, or shift the culture of an organization (Tierney, 1997, p. 6). While HESA faculty members may be integral to the transmittal and reproduction of culture, knowledge, and meaning, how HESA faculty dis/engage processes of socialization and de/construct organizational culture through their SDT courses remains, at this time, underexplored. [End Page 1]
This study was focused on HESA faculty members who teach SDT. I explored two research questions: What organizational norms, behaviors, and values are HESA faculty members socialized to implement in SDT courses? and How do HESA faculty members adopt or challenge these norms, behaviors, and values through their SDT courses? This study is an important step toward better understanding the organizational culture of HESA. In understanding an organization's culture, institutions and individuals are better able to recognize and address contradictions and tensions in the organization, elucidate differing perspectives among and within different groups in the organization, and implement important decisions that might shift or maintain the culture (Tierney, 1988). More specifically, this study provides insight into the ways that socialization to the organizational culture of HESA may afford and constrain faculty members' teaching of SDT. Socialization is a cyclical process wherein HESA faculty members' socialization may influence their ability to infuse certain skills, knowledges, and norms into their teaching, thus influencing graduate students' socialization and development. These graduate students will become faculty, practitioners, and policy makers who may reinforce and disrupt the same or similar cultures and structures they were socialized within (see Oleson & Hora, 2014). Thus, exploring the socialization processes surrounding SDT is a critical step toward understanding, maintaining, and shifting the norms, beliefs, and values of HESA.
REVIEW OF RELEVANT LITERATURE
Organizational Culture and Socialization
This study is framed by the concept of socialization, whereby graduate students and faculty members continuously learn, adopt, and challenge an organization's culture (Tierney & Bensimon, 1996). The organizational culture of HESA consists of "the collective, mutually shaping patterns of norms, values, practices, beliefs, and assumptions that guide the behavior of individuals and groups . . . and provide a frame of reference within which to interpret the meaning of events and actions on and off campus" (Kuh & Whitt, 1988, pgs. 12–13). Organizational culture is comprised of several subcultures that hold a collective investment in HESA, including professional organizations and associations (e.g., National Association of Student Personnel Administrators [NASPA], American College Personnel Association [ACPA]), HESA graduate preparation programs and the departments that house these programs, higher education institutions, and other organizations devoted to supporting education (e.g., National Academy of Education, Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education [CAS]).
The organizational culture is not static, rational, nor fixed. Socialization, as a cultural process, is dialectical and "contestable" (Tierney, 1997, p. 6). Faculty are acted upon while being actors within organizations who may be able to change the culture of an organization by disrupting socialization processes (Tierney, 1997; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993). Yet, socialization may require some faculty members to learn, assimilate to, and reproduce the shared norms, beliefs, and values of an organization (Tierney, 1988; Tierney & Bensimon, 1996), influencing their feelings of being "constrained by traditional cultural paradigms and operating procedures" (Antonio, Astin, & Cress, 2000, p. 376). Tierney (1997) explained:
[Socialization] is an interpretive process involved in the creation—rather than the transmittal—of meaning. . . . Socialization involves a give-and-take where new [End Page 2] individuals make sense of an organization through their own unique backgrounds and the current contexts in which the organization resides.(p. 6)
The backgrounds and contexts in which an organization resides include the culture of US society, the culture of the faculty profession, the culture of the discipline, the culture of the institution, and individual faculty members' characteristics, such as gender, race, age, and faculty rank (Tierney & Rhoads, 1993). Throughout the socialization process, faculty members make meaning of the organizational culture based on the contexts they are in and the personal characteristics they bring to these contexts (Tierney, 1997; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993).
Socialization often involves two stages, anticipatory socialization and organizational socialization (Tierney & Rhoads, 1993). Anticipatory socialization often begins in graduate school, where future faculty members learn the rules of the academy, including what pedagogical, ontological, and epistemological approaches to teaching are valued and preferred at a specific institution or within a certain profession or discipline (Fairweather & Rhoads, 1995; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993). For example, graduate students' experiences as teaching assistants (TAs), as well as the pedagogical methods their faculty members use in the classroom, often socialize them to use these methods when they become faculty members (Braxton, Lambert, & Clark, 1995; Fairweather & Rhoads, 1995; Oleson & Hora, 2014); however, "The phrase 'faculty teach the way they were taught'" remains a contested "maxim in higher education" (Oleson & Hora, 2014, p. 32).
Organizational socialization occurs when graduate students transition to a faculty role, or when faculty transition to another institutional culture, and they are continually socialized to what they must do to succeed at the institution (Tierney & Rhoads, 1993). Some scholars have explored how departmental cultures (Pifer, Baker, & Lunsford, 2015; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993) and institutional cultures (Fairweather, 1993; Fairweather & Rhoads, 1995) are often where influential relationships are built, behaviors are learned, and interactions take place, and are critical sites for socializing faculty members to the norms of the academy, which often include expectations for teaching.
Graduate students' and faculty members' backgrounds and identities often influence their anticipatory and organizational socialization (Fairweather & Rhoads, 1995; Gildersleeve, Croom, Vasquez, 2011; Solórzano, 1998; Turner & Thompson, 1993). For instance, white† women graduate students report having more opportunities to teach alongside faculty and gain hands-on experiences in the classroom than Women of Color graduate students (Turner & Thompson, 1993). Rank and faculty generation, the time period in which faculty members are educated and socialized, may also influence faculty members' approaches to teaching (Corcoran & Clark, 1984).
While scholars have focused on the influence of anticipatory and organizational socialization on faculty members' teaching writ large, HESA faculty members' experiences with socialization to teaching have been underexplored. In preparing for this research, I found only two empirical studies—Patton and Catching (2009), and Rogers and Love (2007)—that captured the experiences of HESA faculty members. Patton and Catching explored how African American HESA faculty [End Page 3] members combatted microaggressive student behaviors in the classroom, while Rogers and Love found that institutional and programmatic context influenced HESA faculty members' incorporation of issues of spirituality into course curriculum. Findings from these two studies suggest that HESA faculty members' social identities and institutional context influence their teaching. While important, this extant scholarship does not address how organizational culture might afford and constrain HESA faculty members' teaching. I aimed to fill this gap in the literature by exploring faculty members' socialization to SDT, which, as demonstrated below, is a core component of the organizational culture of HESA.
Organizational Culture of HESA and Student Development Theory
In 1937, the American Council on Education offered a statement about the increasingly complex and important role of student personnel work in postsecondary contexts. In the report, entitled The Student Personnel Point of View, the American Council on Education (1937) encouraged practitioners in student personnel to move beyond a unilateral focus on students' intellectual development to a focus on developing the whole student, including moral, religious, racial, gender, and other identities. Since 1937, several scholars, organizations, and institutions have consistently centered student learning and growth, that is, student development, as one of the main goals, or values, of the student affairs profession, positioning it as a "unifying theme or theoretical thread that ties the professional field together" (Bloland, Stamatakos, & Rogers, 1994, p. 12).
For example, ACPA and NASPA jointly published Learning Reconsidered (Keeling, 2004) and, alongside other student affairs organizations, Learning Reconsidered 2 (Keeling, 2006). Echoing The Student Personnel Point of View (American Council on Education, 1937) Learning Reconsidered encouraged professionals to consider students' learning, development, and identity formation as interactive, not separate. Learning Reconsidered 2 provided tangible action steps to implement recommendations from the 2004 publication. Taking a note from Learning Reconsidered 2, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (2009), which is a consortium of professional associations in postsecondary education, identified student learning and development as the one consistent outcome that must be embedded throughout 45 different functional areas. More recently, ACPA and NASPA (2015) reinforced competence in student learning and development, which includes knowledge of SDTs and the ability to move theory to practice, as necessary for professionals to be successful in their work in postsecondary contexts.
While SDT has become a foundation for the field, some scholars have also challenged the norms and values surrounding SDT, including Bloland et al. (1994), Kuh and Whitt (1988), Love (2012), Nicolazzo (2016), Patton et al. (2007), and Patton, Harper, and Harris (2015). Some scholars suggest that the field rarely critiques theory and has adopted SDT as a "doctrine" without "any sort of critical examination of the principles, models, and paradigms that have come to denote student development" (Bloland et al., 1994, pp. 11–12). More specifically, first-wave SDTs, often framed as foundational theories, were adopted from the discipline of psychology (Jones & Stewart, 2016) and may not be fully relevant to postsecondary contexts (Bloland et al., 1994). Because SDT is a valued doctrine of the field, HESA faculty members may teach in ways that are "mostly focused on knowing the theories and their various stages" (Patton et al., 2016, p. 41; Renn & Jessup-Anger, 2008), rather than [End Page 4] encouraging students to critique theory and move it toward practice. The emphasis placed on knowing and memorizing formal theory may also eclipse the importance and need for students to explore informal theories, which may be equally—if not more—relevant to their future practice (Love, 2012). Scholars have also explored how SDTs are not often empirically tested, are rarely applicable to an increasingly diverse student population, are rooted in positivist assumptions, and lack an analysis of how systems of domination influence students' development (e.g., Bloland et al., 1994; Nicolazzo, 2016; Patton et al., 2007, 2015).
In sum, SDT has become a core component of the organizational culture of HESA; thus, socialization to SDT is often integral to being successful within the organization. Yet, scholars have increasingly critiqued the value placed on and normalization of some SDTs (Bloland et al., 1994; Nicolazzo, 2016; Patton et al., 2007, 2015) and socialization to these countervailing perspectives may challenge, if not shift, the organizational culture of HESA.
I used a qualitative approach to guide the study design as described by Merriam (2009), who encourages researchers to focus on "understanding how people interpret their experiences, how they construct their worlds, and what meaning they attribute to their experiences" (p. 5). Qualitative inquiry led me to center how HESA faculty members make meaning of as well as challenge and maintain their socialization to SDT.
Faculty members, whether tenured/tenure track and non-tenure track faculty, in a US graduate HESA preparation program who had taught an introduction to SDT course at some point in the previous 3 years were eligible for participation in the study. To identify participants, I browsed the NASPA Graduate Program Directory (http://www.naspa.org/careers/graduate-program-directory) and identified approximately 50 HESA programs located in the US that offered master's degrees with an area of focus on student learning and development with all or most courses taught on campus. Next, I visited each program website to identify the name and contact information for the faculty member(s) in each program who taught a course on SDT. This search yielded 40 qualifying faculty members. Next, I and one other member of the initial research team (a HESA faculty member who taught SDT) reached out to these HESA faculty members to request their participation in the study. Several did not respond to our request, and 6 indicated they did not teach the SDT course in their HESA program.
We recruited 12 participants via the above purposeful sampling technique (Merriam, 2009). I also sent an e-mail to 3 faculty members I had met at a national education conference to request their participation in the study; they all agreed to participate. Through snowball sampling (Merriam, 2009), we recruited 3 more faculty recommended by other enrolled study participants. The final sample of 18 participants represented an array of institutional affiliations, social identities, and stages in their career. Seven participants, 2 cisgender men and 5 cisgender women, identified as People of Color, including African American or Black, AfroLatina, and Asian American. These participants identified their intersecting salient identities as mother, father, Christian, gay, heterosexual, and able-bodied. The 11 other participants identified as white: 1 identified as trans*, 6 identified as cisgender women, and 4 identified as cisgender men. White participants noted intersecting identities, such as queer, lesbian, mother, and having low socioeconomic status. [End Page 5]
As measured by Carnegie Classifications (http://carnegieclassifications.iu.edu), half (9) of the participants worked at public, doctoral universities with very high research activity; 5 participants worked at public, doctoral universities with high research; 1 participant worked at a private, doctoral university with high research activity; 2 participants worked at a public, doctoral/ professional universities; and 1 participant worked at a master's university with larger programs. One participant was employed at a historically Black college, and 2 were at religiously affiliated institutions (Jesuit and Christian). All institutions offered graduate degree-granting instructional programs. The sample included 6 participants who had taught SDT for 15 or more years, while 5 participants were in their first year of teaching. The average amount of time participants taught SDT courses was 7 years. Because the field of HESA is small and HESA faculty members who teach SDT are a smaller subpopulation, I chose not to display participant demographics in a table format; however, when presenting the findings and providing quotes, I have included relevant participant information to contextualize the findings.
Data collection consisted of an individual semistructured interview with each of the 18 participants (Merriam, 2009) via telecommunication software or in person. I interviewed 15 participants, while another member of the research team interviewed 3 participants. The interview protocol was created from extant literature concerning faculty members' socialization to teaching and from literature on SDT. Questions and prompts within the interview protocol were aimed to explore participants' experiences with SDT and how they made meaning of these experiences over time, and included:
• Describe the outline for your SDT course.
• How has your approach to teaching SDT changed over the years?
• What do you hope to change with your SDT course in the future?
Interviews lasted 60 to 90 minutes and were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Current SDT syllabi were provided by 8 of the participants, which were used as an additional data point and helped to clarify and support observations made throughout the data explication process.
Explication of the Data
After the interviews were completed and transcribed, I embarked on data explication guided by Vagle's (2014) whole-parts-whole process, which is rooted in phenomenological inquiry and encourages an exploration into how participants make meaning of a phenomenon of interest, in this case, teaching SDT. First, I read through each transcript while writing research memos in the margins of each document. This first step allowed for a holistic (re)reading of the entire text, by which I could "spend some time getting reacquainted with the data" (Vagle, 2014, p. 98). Second, I delved back into the transcripts and embarked on a first line-by-line reading of the participants' stories. Throughout this reading I made notes, asked questions, and started to draw out sections of data that contained initial meanings of the phenomenon. Next, I completed a second line-by-line reading that allowed me to articulate the meanings of the notes I made in the first reading. During this second reading, I drew out quotes (points of data) from the transcripts that related to making meaning of the participants' experiences with learning and teaching SDT. I organized these quotes into separate documents for each participant. Fourth, in a third line-by-line reading I read [End Page 6] through the 18 individual documents and began to make meaning of each participant's "analytic thoughts" (Vagle, 2014, p. 99). Finally, in subsequent readings, I generated tentative manifestations, or themes, from these 18 documents. I used some participants' syllabi to support and challenge what I observed through the data explication process.
To ensure trustworthiness, I took personal notes on transcripts, during the data collection and data explication processes, and noted my reflections in a journal. I also used peer debriefing throughout the research process (Merriam, 2009), which allowed me to name my assumptions and explore my emerging understandings with 4 study participants who were close to the research and with colleagues at my home institution who were removed from the research. Finally, reviewing my reflective journal, the interview transcripts, and the course syllabi allowed me to crystalize the tentative manifestations I generated from the data. Crystallization (Ellingson, 2009) describes the use of several methods and points of data to inform one another throughout the research process.
My educational and professional experiences influenced my decision to explore HESA faculty members who teach SDT. My first year teaching in a HESA program I took over teaching SDT from someone who had taught the course in that same HESA program for nearly 20 years. Looking over the faculty member's previous syllabus, I observed that my approach to teaching SDT was quite different than what had been done. This led both me and my predecessor to question: What characteristics, structures, and experiences influence the ways in which faculty teach SDT? As a Woman of Color who teaches SDT, I bring my own understandings and assumptions to this research. Specifically, my job as a HESA faculty member is to challenge students to think critically about SDT. Yet, the tenure process and my need to receive "good" course evaluations constrain some of the ways I teach SDT.
I generated three themes from the data explication process: (a) "I taught as I was taught": socialized to create a culture of affirmation, (b) the primacy of The Book, and (c) the dis/placement of foundational theories. The three themes are not mutually exclusive; instead, participants' narratives exposed how anticipatory and organizational socialization are intertwined, as are participants' backgrounds and the subcultures in which these processes occurred.
"I Taught as I was Taught": Socialized to Create a Culture of Affirmation
Several participants explored how their anticipatory socialization to SDT as graduate students taking SDT courses and as TAs influenced their current approach to teaching SDT. For example, Sylvia, a Black woman associate professor, stated: "When I started teaching, I taught as I was taught." Alexa, an AfroLatina cisgender woman in her first year as a faculty member and her first year teaching SDT, explored how she was "socialized" to teach SDT:
I was socialized into the field by Black women. I was heavily taught by Black women. . . . That is a part of who I am and that's how I teach. Personally, that is the perspective from which I operate. I hear myself in the classroom sometimes, and I'm like, "I just sounded like [my mentor who is a Black woman]." . . . The things that I've picked up from those that have taught me [include] encouraging students [End Page 7] to think deeply and critically, encouraging students to bring themselves and their experiences to class and [to] writing.
Alexa named how her socialization to SDT by Black women faculty pushed her to encourage students to bring themselves to the SDT classroom. Through her teaching, Alexa may have encouraged students to explore and reimagine their identities and "self-define" their standpoints, which "can stimulate oppressed groups to resist their domination" (Collins, 1989, p. 749).
Craig, a Black cisgender man and associate professor who had taught SDT for 4 years, explored how he felt validated within the SDT classroom as a graduate student, which may have allowed him to re/examine his (racial) identity. Influenced by this anticipatory socialization, Craig aimed to validate students enrolled in his SDT courses:
It was a very sort of simple thing [the white woman professor] did in that [SDT] class: she asked us to share our stories on one of our assignments. For me, it was the first time that any educator had ever asked for my story or for my opinion in the classroom setting. . . . I wrote some of what I'm sharing with you right now: that I was isolated and I didn't really have a voice to share it. And I got good feedback from her. I felt validated and [felt] like she listened, and I felt, even though she identified racially different than I did, she responded to my story in a way that affirmed me and let me know it was okay to share that story. . . . Because of that experience, when I teach student development theory . . . I don't do a lot of theory or readings in weeks one and two of the semester. I really spend a lot of time asking students to share their stories. Because, I think, for many of us, because of our subordinated or minoritized identities, we don't get a chance to share our stories, or when we do, we're told that we're overreacting to race, or being too sensitive, or we need to just get over it. . . . I want [my students] to have validation in their stories and [to know] that they matter. . . . It's had such a significant impact on who I am. . . . I model, I think, that part—at least—of my teaching after what happened in that class.
Craig demonstrated how teaching and learning SDT had a "significant impact" on his identity—"who I am"—suggesting that the SDT classroom is a space to learn about theories of identity, but also a space to re/ construct and negotiate one's own identity and the systems of privilege and oppression that influence identity. Additionally, in naming how his SDT professor was the first educator to honor his experiences and experiential knowledge as a student with "subordinated or minoritized identities," Craig explored how his socialization to SDT may have disrupted the invalidating cycle of socialization he found himself in prior to taking his SDT class.
The cycle of socialization and the power within this process are evident in Greg's narrative. Greg, a white, queer, cisgender man, first learned SDT from Craig (above) and another HESA faculty member, Stephanie. Greg explored how Craig's "affirming" approach to SDT influenced the development of his identities, as well as his current approach to teaching SDT:
Stephanie and Craig have shaped a lot of my professional journey with the way they approach the world. Especially having a [queer woman and a Faculty of Color] leading with their identities in such an affirming way really shepherded my journey as a queer person and centering my identities in my teaching. . . . Regarding the way they taught it, I still talk about self-authorship as a pedagogical framework: understanding who students are, how they know what they know, and the relationship they want with the world. [End Page 8]
The participants who perceived to teach the way they were taught, like Alexa, Craig, and Greg, often spoke about learning and then teaching SDT in a manner that "involved the creation—rather than the transmittal—of meaning" (Tierney, 1997, p. 6). Participants often explored how their minoritized identities were validated and re/defined through inclusive pedagogies that faculty members employed in the SDT classroom, socializing them to create a similar culture of affirmation with students in their SDT courses.
The Primacy of The Book
All but 3 faculty members in this study had, at some point in their career, assigned Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice as required reading. In 1998, Jossey-Bass published the first edition of Student Development in College (Evans, Forney, & Guido-DeBrito, 1998). In 2009, the second edition was released, adding Patton and Renn as coauthors. During data collection for this research, the updated third edition was released (Patton et al., 2016). According to the publisher (product description at http://www.wiley.com): "Student Development in College is the go-to resource for student affairs, and is considered a key reference for those most committed to conscious and intentional student affairs practice."
Participants often referred to Student Development in College as The Book, explaining that individuals in the student affairs profession have framed it as the source of knowledge for SDT. Jessie, a Black cisgender woman assistant professor relayed: "I use The Book because of mainstream standards around student affairs practice that have established that the theory book is a part of any reputable master's of student affairs preparation program." As Jessie suggested, the organizational culture of HESA positioned The Book as a valuable mainstream standard, or norm, for professional programs. When asked why she chose to use The Book each year, Beatrice, a white woman associate professor replied: "That is how we do it as a department." Alexa, an AfroLatina cisgender woman serving in her first year of teaching, expanded on how department leaders socialized her to use The Book:
Personally, I use The Book because . . . I was told by my department chair. For every other course, [my department chair] has been like, "Decide what book you want to use. It's up to you." For this class, she said, "We use this book." . . . I think we [use The Book] because as a field we just do business as usual. . . . We don't think outside the box, we don't challenge the status quo, and so everyone knows the ritual of using that particular student affairs book. That's just what you do. I don't know. It's like a cornerstone of the field.
Jessie, Beatrice, and Alexa explored how disciplinary and programmatic norms concerning The Book were conveyed to them through implicit and explicit anticipatory socialization processes.
Building on Alexa's narrative, Greg, a white queer man, explored further how The Book may uphold the status quo:
Our field relies on kind of a unidimensional understanding of development through this textbook. Though we rely on these scholars, it's really promoting a universal truth, which is antithetical to the way that I'm teaching the class. . . . I'm relying on others instead of cocreating it myself or with students.
Several participants involved in this research explored how, through socialization, they came to know and adopt The Book as a norm, an acceptable behavior of the field. Yet, for several participants, The Book seemingly constrained their teaching to a "box" or to "universal truth."
The Book and Chronological Course Content
Some HESA faculty members relayed how they were not only socialized to use The Book, [End Page 9] but they were also socialized to adopt the chronological order of The Book to structure their SDT courses. Ben, who identifies as a white, queer, cisgender man, first explained: "I teach it in a historical way, because that is how The Book is structured and that is how I learned it. Most of us repeat what we have been taught and [teach] the way we were socialized, right?" Moments later, Ben continued:
We, as humans, like order and we like consistency, and we read from left to right, from front to back. And that is how we have been socialized in every academic course, more or less, to think about it that way. And the [authors] know best, right? There is some logic that they have in their heads, so I am just going to go with that. I don't always teach all of my classes that way, but it is interesting that with student development theory, more often than not, I teach it in a very linear fashion, according to the textbook.
Ben echoed Greg's earlier assertion concerning the agency that the authors of The Book hold in creating truth. Ben also hinted that there is something unique about teaching SDT— or perhaps, unique about The Book—that disallows him to disrupt the behaviors he was socialized to in his SDT course, although he may push back on this socialization in other HESA courses.
Participants who used The Book also relayed how they recently shifted, or would need to shift, their syllabus with the release of the third edition. The third edition diverged from the previous two editions with a discussion of social identity development and power and privilege moved from the last chapters to the first chapters of The Book. In the midst of explaining how he followed the first and second editions of The Book and its linear outline, Ben described how he was "really excited to be using the third edition this next year" so that he could foreground social identity in the classroom:
The [new edition] flip-flops so you start with social identities first, which is great, because that is how we show up every day. . . . It is going to be a great way to begin to frame the conversation. And then we can start to say, "So how does all of this come to bear when we start to think about moral development?"—rather than saying, "Let's think about moral development, and oh yeah, now we can overlay that with identity."
Greg echoed Ben's thoughts on the third edition of The Book, acknowledging that it "allowed" him to include new, critical content about "social class and social class-consciousness into my curriculum, adding in disability identity development, [and] a realigning of gender identity development to have a broader gender spectrum to include trans folk."
Because The Book was the norm for the profession, participants perceived that the shifted contents of the third edition encouraged, if not normalized, the foregrounding of social identity, oppression, and privilege in SDT specifically and in the field of HESA broadly. Jessie, a Black cisgender woman assistant professor, explained:
[The third edition of] The Book is a manifestation of the profession's commitment to what it espouses. It has long been espousing [social justice and inclusion], but nothing in the actual traditions or norms that are exclusively linked to student affairs preparation really reflected what we say we care about.
Jessie expressed that, while the field espouses a value of social justice and inclusion (SJI), which, like SDT, is a core competency of HESA (ACPA & NASPA, 2015), traditions or norms in the field do not often reflect or actualize this culture. Yet, the third edition of The Book, and more specifically, the authors of this third edition, may be shifting organizational culture and actualizing espoused commitments to SJI through SDT. Interestingly, Jessie explored how [End Page 10] it is not necessarily organizational culture that shifted The Book, but rather, The Book that shifted culture.
Finally, for participants with minoritized identities—specifically, Faculty of Color—the new edition of The Book provided them with agency and "validation" to talk about oppression and privilege up front in their classes. Blue, a Black cisgender woman in a lecturer position, explained that students often pushed back on her critical perspective on SDT, asking, "Why is this always about race? Why is this always about privilege?" Yet, with the third edition of The Book, Blue felt validated in her values and her approach to teaching:
In the back of my head I go, "Dang it, I can't change up too much, because what [are students] going to say?" Or, "Well, I'm going to show up Black anyway. This is my lens." I have that going in my head. But I think The Book did provide some validation, too. "Man, I know I need to talk about privilege and oppression. I know we need to talk about social identities first." This book gave the permission to do that because it's accepted in the field, it's the go-to text. Boom! I'm going to jump on it. I'm changing my syllabus.
Echoing Jessie's perceptions, the release of the third edition of The Book encouraged some HESA faculty members, such as Blue, to actualize espoused commitments to SJI through SDT. This narrative suggests that discursive organizational or programmatic commitments to SJI fall short in re/constructing organizational culture, but that tangible artifacts, such as books, and the importance the field places on these artifacts, may be integral to shifting cultures.
The Dis/Placement of Foundational Theories
Several participants explored how they understood, through socialization processes, that foundational theories and theorists, such as Perry (1970) and Chickering (1969), should be the most valued theories within SDT courses and in the field at large. Cody, a white cisgender male professor who taught SDT for more than 20 years, explored his frustration with the authors of the third edition of The Book for their moving away from foundational theories. He cautioned: "I think there's actually a decreased emphasis on foundational theories, which I find very disturbing. . . . I don't think we're teaching enough of the foundations." Cody decided not to use the third edition of the theory book, because of these concerns and because it "moved away from" a focus "on Sanford, Kohlberg, Gilligan, Chickering; the really foundational theorists." Cody planned to continue to structure his course in a historical fashion in which he foregrounded foundational theories. Cody's decision is particularly interesting because one norm (The Book) contended with another norm (foundational theories). Cody also recognized that his anticipatory socialization to SDT informed his beliefs about foundational theories: "My undergrad and master's both very much [have] your more academic roots in psychology. . . . I think those things strongly informed my perspective of what the field is coming up with, what it's doing, its strengths, its limitations, those types of things."
Dianne, a white cisgender woman faculty member who also had taught SDT for nearly 20 years, acknowledged the value the field placed on foundational theories and how this influenced her teaching: "I just start with [Chickering] to say, 'That's the one you know. That's the one people reference out in the field. If you're going to be an educated person, you ought to have heard of him.'" While some scholars have problematized foundational theories for their positivist leanings (see for example Nicolazzo, 2016), Cody and Dianne framed these theories as the "roots" and "origins" of not only SDT, but the overall field. [End Page 11]
In response to Dianne's statement above, I asked her: "Would there ever be a world where we get rid of these foundational theories, or gloss over them?" She responded:
We need to understand our origins and our foundations. I kind of hope we don't ever totally wipe them out. . . . As research progresses, as the field progresses, as students change, . . . imagine how change happens. You still have people who are out in the field being VPs of Student Affairs who got their degrees in the '70s, and then they're going to retire. And then you have people who got their degrees in the '80s, and then they're going to retire. So, we're talking 30 years from now—.
Dianne explored how faculty generation may influence HESA faculty members' understandings of SDT and, thus, the value they place on foundational theories in the SDT classroom. Faculty generation may intertwine with the social identities of those faculty. Participants who had taught in HESA for nearly 20 years and had foregrounded foundational theories almost always identified racially as white and as cisgender. There may exist a connection between faculty generation and social identity, because 20 years ago the structural diversity of both US graduate education (U.S. Department of Education, 2018) and the professoriate (Finkelstein, Conley, & Schuster, 2016) was, in many ways, less diverse than it is today.
Other participants' narratives supported Dianne's perspectives on the valuing of foundational theories as a generational phenomenon. Some HESA faculty members, the majority of whom learned SDT as graduate students as early as 2006 or later, were conflicted by the perceived emphasis that the field placed on foundational theories. The majority of the participants that questioned these theories identified with minoritized identities. Travis, a Black cisgender man who had just finished his first semester of teaching SDT and who was self-taught in SDT in early 2016, explained: "'Foundational' is a word that is more of a convention of the field. . . . I struggle with theories that don't represent the current climate and configuration of social interaction on our college campuses." Moments later, Travis added: "I feel like student development theory can be reminiscent of the very white, male, heteropatriarchal sentiments and practices that led to higher education."
Participants problematized foundational theories for being "tired and old" and not representative of the current state of higher education. Yet, these same participants acknowledged that many foundational theories remained, as Helena, a white trans* assistant professor, put it: "[SDT] is important to share with students, because that's the language people use in the field." Some faculty members who questioned foundational theories attempted to teach students both to know and to critique these theories. For example, when teaching foundational theories, one participant prompted students: "Take a couple minutes, turn to your partner, [and explore] how might this theory be different for a Black student, or for a queer Student of Color?" Some faculty also incorporated readings alongside The Book that added a supplemental understanding of how systemic power and oppression might overlay or shift foundational theories.
While some faculty thought about shifting their approach to foundational theories and encouraging students to critique theory, placing less value on foundational theories was not always an option for some. Structures within HESA programs continued to socialize some faculty members—and subsequently their students—to a canon of foundational student development theories. Philip, a white cisgender man and assistant professor, shared: "Because I am based in a counseling-based program, there is a great deal of emphasis [End Page 12] on the foundational theorist. . . . I am pretty much told—not told—I shouldn't say that. I am never told anything, but there is a piece about, 'We need to talk about Erikson.'" Chloe, a queer, white, cisgender woman and assistant professor, explored how the norms of the field and the program she worked in influenced her teaching of foundational theories in her course:
What stops me from [pushing students to think outside the box] is teaching in this damn program where they think there is a canon. I am constantly struggling to figure out what happens if I teach this differently, so differently that these students all fail comps, right? My first semester here, one of the senior faculty here was quizzing my students about whether they knew the seven vectors of Chickering. . . . I have been socialized that [SDT] is the foundation and there is a certain way to learn it, and if you don't [teach] it that way, people will not think you're a good student affairs educator.
The value placed on knowing foundational theories may have discouraged faculty to challenge and support graduate students to think critically and creatively about SDT (Patton et al., 2007). This is particularly concerning, because, when theory is critically examined and employed, many educators can use it to interrogate and disrupt how power and oppression dis/inform inequitable collegiate environments and to influence students' developmental processes (Abes, 2016; Patton et al., 2007, 2015). Thus, the value placed on foundational theories may shape how HESA faculty members teach, but also may put at risk upholding inequitable environments.
Findings from this research build on the minimal scholarship that centers the experiences of HESA faculty (Patton & Catching, 2009; Rogers & Love, 2007) and demonstrate how faculty members' anticipatory and organizational socialization to HESA culture allowed for affordances as well as constraints in their teaching SDT. Regarding constraints, participants in this research often explored how the subcultures of the organization (Tierney, 1997), including HESA preparation programs, continuously socialized them to the values and behaviors surrounding SDT and subsequently to norms of teaching SDT. Programmatic contexts, such as the weight placed on comprehensive exams and being in a counseling-based program, socialized faculty to place different—if not more—weight on foundational theories, while professional and programmatic contexts socialized some participants to view The Book as the cornerstone or mainstream standard of the field.
Moreover, participants perceived a need to adhere to these norms, behaviors, and values (e.g., foundational theories and use of The Book) in order for others to think they are a good student affairs educator in a reputable master's program and an effective participant within the organization (Gardner, 2007; Tierney & Bensimon, 1996; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993; Weidman et al., 2001). While adopting to and transmitting the organizational culture may position HESA faculty and HESA master's programs as good and reputable, it remains somewhat unknown how or whether these norms, values, and behaviors of SDT are effective for teaching, learning, and moving SDT to practice. In fact, some scholars have cautioned against these values and behaviors (e.g., Bloland et al., 1994; Patton et al., 2007, 2015). Yet, many of these values and behaviors remain a part of the organizational culture because, according to Alexa, "as a field, we just do business as usual."
Although socialization processes influenced some faculty members to learn, assimilate to, and reproduce the shared norms, beliefs, and [End Page 13] values of the organization, some participants also named how individual agency/agents may have shifted organizational culture (Tierney, 1997; Tierney & Bensimon, 1996). For instance, several participants noted that the third edition of The Book actualized the profession's commitment to what it espouses, allowing for affordances in some participants' teaching. Some participants, such as Ben and Greg, hinted that the contents of The Book and its enactment of SJI may be more about the individual authors of the third edition and less about the culture of the field. This finding is particularly interesting, because, although HESA organizations (e.g., ACPA & NASPA) and HESA preparation programs (e.g., Seattle University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of Denver, University of Vermont) espouse commitments to SJI, participants often explored how it was (the authors of) the third edition of The Book, and not necessarily organizational commitments, that provided them with agency to fully infuse SJI in their SDT courses. This finding also illustrates how organizational culture is always in flux and open to change through a dialectical socialization process whereby one is influenced by the organization and influences the organization (Tierney, 1997; Tierney & Bensimon, 1996; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993).
Consistent with previous scholarship (e.g., Antonio et al., 2000; Tierney, 1997; Tierney & Rhoads, 1993), participants in this study explored how their individual characteristics, such as faculty generation and social identities, may influence their socialization to some organizational norms and values. For example, some participants explored how their social identities, specifically their race, gender, and sexuality, influenced their socialization toward inclusive pedagogy as graduate students and as faculty members. Both faculty generation and social identity may have intertwined to influence participants' views on and use of foundational theories in the classroom. Participants who were socialized to SDTs 20 or more years ago, all of whom identified as white, often revered foundational theories, while some participants who studied SDT more recently were more skeptical of deeming specific theories as foundational. This finding may be contextualized by a professoriate that continues to incrementally diversify over time and generations (Finkelstein et al., 2016). Similarly, over the last 10 to 15 years, scholarship that challenges specific theories, or pushes back on an uncritical adoption of SDT, has continued to emerge (e.g., Love, 2012; Nicolazzo, 2016; Patton et al., 2007, 2015). This scholarship, or rather, some scholars may work to shift the norms, values, practices, beliefs, and assumptions of foundational SDTs over time and generations.
Finally, participants made meaning of their anticipatory socialization to affirming and validating norms and beliefs related to teaching SDT. Several participants explored how their graduate experiences in the SDT classroom socialized them to value pedagogies that affirmed students' minoritized and subordinated identities. HESA faculty members' infusion of affirming perspectives in the classroom may work—through socialization—to shift the organizational culture of HESA over time: a phenomenon that was evidenced in Greg and Craig's connecting narratives of how and why they aimed to validate students' identities through teaching SDT. This finding leads to three final points. First, many HESA faculty members in this study taught SDT in similar manners they were taught SDT, which builds on previous research that inconclusively explored whether faculty members mirror the ways they were taught as graduate students (Braxton et al., 1995; Fairweather & Rhoads, 1995; Oleson & Hora, 2014). Second, whether or not they explored constraints or affordances of socialization, participants often hinted at the [End Page 14] ways in which socialization worked as a cyclical process, wherein graduate students became faculty members who, through their teaching, reinforced or disrupted the cultures they were socialized within. Finally, while organizational culture was re/constructed through processes of socialization to SDT, some participants also explored how "who I am," that is, the meaning they make of their identities, was also reconstructed within the SDT classroom.
Individuals working in HESA have a responsibility to implement policies, procedures, and programs and to take individual actions that create affordances for faculty in their teaching rather than constraints. For example, some participants in this research expressed that teaching to a test constrained them from straying too far from a canon of SDT. Leaders of HESA programs must assess whether comprehensive exams are hindering or helping the goals of HESA. Comprehensive exams may no longer be necessary within certain programs. Or perhaps exam questions should require students to apply a critical examination to SDT, thus making critical thinking skills a norm and value of programmatic curriculum and organizational culture.
Recently, scholars have released texts that reframe and critique SDT in ways that may shift some HESA faculty members' thinking around SDT curriculum and push against the universal use of The Book (see Abes, 2016; Abes, Jones, & Stewart, 2019). For example, in Rethinking College Student Development Theory Using Critical Frameworks, whose primary audience is HESA faculty members who teach in graduate programs, Abes et al. (2019), encourage faculty and students to use critical and poststructural theories to expand the current framing of SDT. These texts were published after my collection of the 18 HESA faculty members' narratives, which is likely why faculty participants did not mention these innovative texts during the interview process. Time should be dedicated at HESA faculty meetings for all to come together and discuss (a) newer texts, such as these, as well as other thought-provoking literature that might be included in course content, (b) how to adopt new materials and innovative theories while still honoring and critiquing foundational materials and theories, and (c) innovative ways to structure course content. Additionally, program leaders must collect data and assess how, or whether, specific behaviors, course content, and classroom materials adequately prepare students to move theory to practice.
Leaders of HESA organizations must think through how to socialize individuals to more expansive and inclusive teaching that shifts the organizational culture of HESA. Webinars, national and regional conferences, and other professional development opportunities should be used to further curriculum development as it relates to SDT and other HESA courses, such as, organization and governance and history of higher education. These opportunities should encourage faculty members to revamp existing syllabi with new reading materials, different course structures, and diverse learning activities. Leaders of these efforts must ensure that faculty members are mapping assigned readings, activities, and course structure back to the goals of the course, as well as the espoused goals of the institutional program and the field writ large. Furthermore, HESA program leaders and faculty members must explore how their SDT courses might actualize and incorporate other commitments and competencies of the profession, such as SJI. Professional development opportunities should also be initiated to create a learning network for faculty members who teach the same courses, encouraging faculty from different generations, identities, and backgrounds to come together, share, and shift their teaching. [End Page 15]
To build on this study, scholars might explore similar research questions, but with a focus on other—or multiple—HESA courses, such as the history of higher education. Scholars could also explore the similarities and differences across courses, exploring how the norms and values faculty members are socialized to vary by course topic. Finally, future researchers should focus on graduate students' experiences with socialization and organizational culture. A longitudinal research design might be used to follow HESA graduate students into their faculty positions, exploring the ways in which anticipatory and organizational socialization build on and conflict with one another. In closing, both research and practice should focus on the possibilities of socialization to shift and maintain organizational culture in an attempt to actualize espoused goals and commitments of the organization. [End Page 16]
Jessica C. Harris is Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Organizational Change at the University of California, Los Angeles.
†. Guided by the works of Lindsay Pérez Huber (2010), I capitalize Asian, Black, and terms for other minoritized groups, including People of Color, as a form of linguistic empowerment. I do not capitalize white to counter hegemonic grammatical norms and to "reject the grammatical representation of power capitalization brings to the term 'white'" (p. 93).