Overgeneralization in Chickering’s Theory of Development
Student’s character development in higher education can be understood by Arthur Chickering’s theory of development. In his article, “The Seven Vectors: An Overview” Chickering delves into the idea that college students experience seven vectors of development throughout their college experience. These vectors of development must reach resolution for the student to achieve identity. The seven vectors posed by him are developing competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward independence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity. These can be used as maps to help determine where students are and which way they are heading. Though Chickering did not necessarily state that a student’s movements through these seven vectors were sequential, the theory indicates that student’s must resolve through a specific group of vectors as a foundation towards progressing through later vectors. Although the vectors have more direction and magnitude, they build upon one another from simpler tasks to more difficult tasks. Achieving an increased level of sense in one vector not only strengthens assurance brought to adult tasks, but also affects the remaining six vectors of development. However, instead of focusing on only emotional, social, moral, or intellectual development, Chickering’s theory should have included a student’s demographics as well. Chickering’s theory may have been too general to be useful for all college students. Different demographics of students are not addressed in his article. Several of the theories presented here were developed more than three decades ago based on largely White, middle-class males attending highly selective colleges. As such, their ability to describe the experiences of men and women and racial minorities has to be challenged. Social and cultural shifts that have occurred since these theories were...
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