Higher Education and Student DevelopmentTwo fundamental presuppositions of education are that people can change and that educators and educational environments can affect that change. Observations of college students from entry to graduation confirm that change does occur. Students learn factual information in the humanities; the physical, natural, and behavioral sciences; and other academic disciplines. They learn to think critically; to identify, use, and evaluate sources; to solve methodological and technical problems; and to communicate ideas more effectively in oral and written language. If these kinds of academic and intellectual changes do not occur, educators know that they have failed to carry out their educational mission.
There is considerably more to higher education than academic and intellectual learning alone, however, as the Hazen Foundation's The Student in Higher Education (1968) pointed out. Colleges and universities are major social agents in promoting the personal development of students in addition to their intellectual learning. College students mature and develop not only because of what they learn in the classroom, not even mainly because of what they learn in that setting. Student interaction with college instructors and leaders, involvement in friendship groups, acquisition of new personal values, exposure to varied campus climates and expectations all have an immense impact on the evolution of young adults' self and world views, confidence and altruism, and achievement of personal identities. By the fact that institutions of higher learning intentionally seek to inform students' minds, colleges become intimately involved in the development of the whole person, of which intellectual faculties are but a part (Hazen Foundation, 1968; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991).
Especially during the college years, young adults seek to resolve the child-parent relationship in a search for independence (Coons, 1971; Erikson, 1963), to establish a sense of identity and self-worth (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Cohen, 1985; Erikson, 1968), and to form concepts about themselves as separate adult persons (Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Kegan, 1982). They also develop increasingly mature patterns of interpersonal behaviors, coping styles, career orientations, values systems, and lifestyles that will greatly influence the shape of their futures (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1993; Super,1984).
Just as there is intellectual knowledge to be gained and academic skills to be acquired in college, there is also knowledge about one's self to be learned and interpersonal skills to be developed (Astin, 1993). Likewise, just as academic competence can be taught and learned, so can personal assessment, goal setting, interpersonal relationship skills, and other important life skills (Gazda, Childers, & Brooks, 1987; Miller & Prince, 1976).