Student Development Theory

This 8-week course began July 15, 2014. The instructor for EDU/724 was Brenda Curry, Ph.D.

Course Description

This course will foster an enhanced understanding of college students through an examination of the psychosocial, cultural, cognitive-structural, identity, and typology theories related to college student development. Application and use of theory to everyday practice and a broad range of students in higher education will be discussed.

Course Competencies

  • Synthesize student development theory across all age groups.
  • Analyze the application of student development theory to everyday practice in higher education.
  • Analyze the role of student development theory in different areas of campus management and life.
  • Evaluate the effect of potential developmental issues in a diverse student population.

The first two weeks of most doctoral programs are devoted to reading. After that, each week has a topic and the assignments reflect the topic as well as relate to parts of the reading. The reading list for this course is listed at the bottom under references. Note that in addition to the required texts, there were a number of journal articles that were also required reading for each week.

  1. Reading Week
  2. Reading Week
  3. Introduction to Student Development Theory and Application
  4. Moral Development and Its Application
  5. Psychosocial Theories and Their Applications
  6. Adult Development, Learning, and Intelligence Theories
  7. Identity Development
  8. Global Approaches in Practice of Theory


There were a number of assignments that required time and effort. However, I am just focusing on the papers. They were as follows:

  • Week 3: In week 3 we had to select a college student with whom we have worked and identify a developmental issue that affected him or her. Identify at least four theories or theorists that may be used to interpret the issue and assist in the student’s growth. Then write a 1,400- to 1,750-word paper discussing the student and his or her developmental issue along with identified theories or theorists, supported by primary sources including seminal texts and journal articles. Consider the potential causes of the developmental issue and ways it may affect the student’s development. Include your reasoning for choosing specific theories or theorists. Possible developmental issues, theories, and theorists include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Developmental issues
    • Difficulty managing emotions
    • Trouble fitting in
    • Uncertain career path or developing vocational goals
    • Difficulty making moral decisions; for example, decisions involving sexual activity, drugs, alcohol, academic honesty
    • Struggle for independence, balancing parental relationships
    • Self-discovery
    • Developing intellectual, physical, and interpersonal competence
    • Developing mature and intimate relationships
    • Theories and theorists
    • Cognitive-structural theories: Piaget, Perry
    • Moral development theories: Kohlberg, Gilligan
    • Psychosocial theories: Erikson, Chickering
    • Adult development theories: Schlossberg
    • Learning and intelligence theories: Kolb, Myers-Briggs
    • Identity development theories

    I wrote about an Hispanic female student and used the following theoretical perspectives as they pertained to her development: Ethnic Identity Development, Josselson’s Theory of Women’s Identity Development, Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development, and Women’s Ways of Knowing. This assignment was worth 15 points and unfortunately in looking back, I see that the grade was not posted on the paper. I know I earned an A but do not recall the exact points.

  • Week 4: In week 4 we were to create a 20- to 30-slide PowerPoint® presentation that familiarizes staff and faculty in a higher education organization with student development theory across all college and adult age groups, and focuses on the importance, history, and utility of various theories. The presentation must be directed toward staff and faculty who have little or no knowledge of student development theory. Speaker’s notes must be used to support major points of the presentation. Major points must be supported in APA format by primary sources, including seminal texts and journal articles. This assignment was worth 15 points. Again, the grade was recorded but not put on the actual assignment. I earned an A.
  • Week 5: In week 5 we had to write a paper of 1,050 to 1,400 words in which we determine an attainable higher education position we would like to have in the next 5 years. Do research to determine the interplay between that position and student development theory. Describe the position’s responsibilities and how you might utilize student development in your daily work. Discuss ways you could utilize student development theory to make appropriate decisions. What are some guidelines you must keep in mind to assist student development? Support your arguments with theories and primary sources including seminal texts and journal articles. This was an interesting challenge. Because the program is Higher Education Administration I naturally began researching administrative positions. After some time, I came to realize that I enjoy the position of faculty and would very much like to continue my work as college faculty. It turned out to be a very interesting paper for me. I earned 9.8 out of 10 on this paper.
  • Week 6: There were no papers or projects due in Week 6. We had discussion questions and participation.
  • Week 7: In week 7 we had to review a case study and associated material. We selected one of the administrative positions discussed in the case study and then role played how that person might respond to the situation. I took the position of Institutional Researcher as I have experience in that role. We prepared an analysis of key issues surrounding the student or students involved. Then made a determination of three theories or theorists that might apply to the situation and explain the student’s behavior(s). What intervention is appropriate based on the theories or theorists you determine fit? How might the situation be resolved given the role that you selected? The analysis of the documents, situation, theories, and intervention must be included in a 2,800- to 3,500-word paper, in APA format, supported by primary sources including seminal texts and journal articles. A draft of the assignment was posted in the main forum for peers to review and discuss. I earned 24/25 on this paper.
  • Week 8: In week 8 there were two main assignments (aside from the weekly discussion questions and participation). The first was a Peer Review. We were to respond to at least one Case Study assignment posted from week 7. In the review we were to evaluate the approach the learner took in examining the scenario. How reasonable is his or her interpretation? Is the proposed intervention effective? Are the statements in the assignment supported by theories? The second assignment came after we examined our paper that was peer reviewed. We then had to complete a Revision Matrix for the Case Study assignment based on the peer feedback. Together these were worth 10 points. I earned 10/10.


The biggest challenge for me was that the facilitator was not familiar with the New Classroom. UOPX changed the online system significantly last year and facilitators had to attend training in order to learn how to manage the classroom. As a classroom facilitator I have attended the training and after a few classes am much more comfortable. It appears Dr. Curry had too much time between the training and her first class in the New Classroom. I found items not being posted where they should have been posted and grades were, as I have indicated, not always made visible. Once you leave the class, grades are no longer visible and so without markings on papers and presentations, I am unable to recall from memory exact grades.


The interesting thing is that I thought the biggest challenge for me would be the fact that there were just 3 students in the class. Initially we had been informed that the class might be cancelled due to so few students. Fortunately it was not and I really enjoyed the smaller class size.

Additionally, I learned so much about student development that I am excited about pursuing it for a paper presentation. With over half of college and university staff as adjunct, contingency, or part-time, I wonder how much student development is actually known and practiced in classes and on campus. I know I received little training in this area and have not had any workshops or conferences that discuss this topic.

I successfully completed the course with 99.2 out of 100 points. I earned an A and 3 credits. So I have now completed 19 units and have 46 more to go.

Required Reading

Chickering, A. W., Dalton, J. C., & Stamm, L. (2006). Encouraging authenticity & spirituality in higher education. San Francisco: CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chickering, A. W. & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Torres, V., Howard-Hamilton, M. F., & Cooper, D. L. (2003). Identity development of diverse populations: Implications for teaching and administration in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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