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A critique of student development theory: In search of a student development model

Blaine Kenneth Stevens, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation addresses four primary research questions that are of particular importance to student personnel administration and in a more general sense to the higher education community. Those questions are: (1) Is there a student development theory/model? (2) Is student development different from traditional student personnel work? (3) If student development is not a distinct model or theory, does it suggest an approach that is distinctly different than the more traditional student personnel work? If not, what does it suggest, if anything? (4) What are the operational implications of student development, if any, and what are the implications for the student personnel practitioners? The methodology for this study is by an extensive review and analysis of the literature of student development and of student personnel work. The study is divided into five chapters: introduction and methodology, historical review of student personnel work, major influences from human developmental psychology, the authorities on student development, and finally, conclusions and ramifications. The results of the study suggest that there is not a clearly delineated student development model. The study also indicates that the literature reveals several student development theories, but not a single comprehensive student development theory that is clearly and definitively articulated. The study indicates that student development is significantly different from traditional student personnel work, and that there is certainly a student development approach to student personnel work. The operational implications of this approach are briefly identified.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Stevens, Blaine Kenneth, "A critique of student development theory: In search of a student development model" (1989). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8917410.