What matters in college?: Four critical years revisited

Tags: meaningful philosophy, college environment, College College, San Francisco, substantial increases, freshmen, studies, full-time basis, graduate education, college experiences, Jossey-Bass, pretense, David A. McKelfresh, Student environment, Institutional Research Project Terenzini, Astin Jossey-Bass Publishers, personal development, education literature, citation patterns, Astin, peer groups, student References, Alexander Astin
Content: What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited Alexander Astin Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993 482 pages, $30.95 Review by David A. McKelfresh
What Matters in College
(Student environment and
extends the research about how Individual involvement). Al-
students change in college and
though this book runs the risk of
why they change as they do.
subjecting the reader to informa-
Alexander Astin, founding
tion overload, Astin's latest study
director of the Cooperative
reports what Pascarella and
Institutional research project
Terenzini (1991) concluded in
(CIRP), provides a major contri- their review of approximately
bution to the literature on college- 3,000 studies - college has
effects. While What Matters in strong effects on students.
College is organized in a similar Students develop a greater sense
fashion to Astin's earlier work, of interpersonal and intellectual
Four Critical Years (1977) this competence and a greater
book is an entirely new study.
commitment to developing a
In his latest book, Astin
meaningful philosophy of life.
studies the effects of college on They report substantial increases
24,847 freshmen in 1985 who
in knowledge and skills, with the
completed a follow-up question- exception of mathematical or
naire in 1989. What Matters in
quantitative ability. College
College provides 192 measures of students tend to become less
the college environment which materialistic and more idealistic
comprise five categories, three . during the college years.
relating to the institution and its
Astin found that the faculty
faculty (Institutional characteris- also have a strong impact on
tics, Curricular characteristics,
students. Campuses on which
and Faculty environment) and two faculty have a strong orientation
pertaining to the student body
toward students have important
Dave McKelfresh ('76) is the Director ofResidence Life at Colorado State University.
effects. Students on such campuses are more satisfied with the institution, the curriculum, and
74
other aspects of the educational concedes his study is limited to
experience and are more likely to students who begin their college
develop academically.
studies on a full-time basis (even
Astin especially notes the
though many will become part-
following three items: 1) That
timers) .
being in a particular type of
As Four Critical Years has
institution does not necessarily been the single most frequently
limit the effectiveness of under- cited work in the higher education
graduate education, and that what literature (Budd, 1990), What
really matters is the environment Matters in College seems
created by the faculty and
destined for similar appeal and
students; 2) The kinds of colleges influence with educators. Admin-
and college experiences that
istrators and policy makers will
favorably affect the student's
find considerable interest in the
performance on standardized tests effects of different kinds of
are quite different from those that institutions, patterns of resource
enhance retention and other
utilization, and the campus
cognitive and affective outcomes; "climate" on students. Astin
and 3) The single most important (1992) contends that "in choosing
environmental influence on
a college, students and their
student development is the peer parents may find many of the
group.
results useful, especially those
As in previous studies, Astin having to do with type of college
shows that students are the most attended and patterns of student
important influence on other
involvement" (p. xii). For the
students' affective development. faculty or staff member interested
Students values, beliefs, and
in how students change and
aspirations change in the direction develop in college and what can
of the dominant values, beliefs, be done to enhance that develop-
and aspirations of other students. ment, What Matters in College
Astin suggests that a college's
will undoubtedly be popular for
judicious and imaginative use of years to come.
peer groups can substantially
strengthen its impact on student References
learning and personal development. Astin makes no pretense that What Matters in College is a comprehensive review of the literature on college impact. He DOtes that his book focuses almost exclusively on the traditional-age
Astin, A.W. (1977). Four critical nm. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass. Astin, A.W. (1993). What matters in colle&e: Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Budd, J.M. (1990). Higher education literature: Characteristics of
college undergraduate who enters
citation patterns. Journal of
college soon after completing
Hi&her Education. Qj (1), 2 .
High School. Astin further
75

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