How College Affects Students, Volume 2: A Third Decade of Research (2005)

By Taylor, Simone Himbeault | Planning for Higher Education, January-March 2009 | Go to article overview

How College Affects Students, Volume 2: A Third Decade of Research (2005)


Taylor, Simone Himbeault, Planning for Higher Education


How College Affects Students, Volume 2: A third decade of research (2005) by Ernest Pascarella and Patrick Terenzini Jossey-Bass, 2005 827 pages ISBN: 978-0787-910440

Reviewed by Simone Himbeault Taylor

Introduction

Although books are often reviewed at or near point of publication, some volumes can benefit from having the opportunity to spend some time "in the wild" to see how they fair in practice. The latest compilation of research produced by Pascarella and Terenzini is one such volume; I have had over three years to experience its value as an aid to research, teaching, and practice. I have utilized this volume both in my administrative and faculty capacities and have encouraged staff and students to tap it as well. Thus, I can speak not only conceptually about this reference text but also to its utility.

This volume immediately joins other classics that have earned their place on the bookshelf of any scholar and practitioner of the college student experience. As with the best of these, each offers essential frameworks for understanding the student experience and the ways in which colleges influence that experience, and each provides analyses and syntheses of theories, concepts, models, and research related to this topic.

Historical Context

To fully appreciate Volume 2, a bit of historical perspective is beneficial. Pascarella and Terenzini themselves are highly respectful of the precedent for a comprehensive review of existing research. Their first volume served as a much-needed follow-up to Feldman and Newcomb's 1969 review of four decades of research covering over 1,500 studies. Indeed, their 1991 volume included a foreword by Kenneth Feldman that served to symbolically pass the baton to this next generation of respected colleagues. In that foreword, Feldman wrote:

More than ever before, we now know how students change at college and understand why they change as they do. At the same time, we are also more aware of exactly what we do not know about college impacts on students and of precisely what gaps in knowledge need filling in. With respect, then, to the influence on students that colleges do have and could have, the present book helps set the research and policy agenda for this, the last decade of the twentieth century (p. xiii).

Pascarella andTerenzini's 1991 volume covered over 2,600 studies from 1967-1989, approximately two decades. While the authors now refer to this first volume as "dated scholarship," I have a somewhat different interpretation: Volume 1, along with the 1969 Feldman and Newcomb, provides an extraordinary 60-year context for the research that follows. The studies are the building blocks that create the foundation for what is understood about the student college experience.

This 2005 Volume 2 reviews the approximately 2,500 studies that have been conducted over only the past decade (approximately 1989-2002). Like the knowledge explosion occurring in so many other fields, the growth of research in the field of student learning development and college impact is impressive and substantial. At this rate, we should anticipate a third volume of similar size in five years! And because of this explosion of new research, the need for analysis and synthesis of pertinent studies is all the more needed as an essential service to the profession, for scholars and practitioners alike.

The exponential growth of studies, however, is only part of the story. Little could Feldman have anticipated in 1 991 that at the same time we were gaining a fuller understanding of how and why students changed in college, the very students being studied were shifting dramatically. The past decade or so has brought with it greater awareness of the many student populations that make up today's collective student body. Unlike the many theories and studies in Feldman and Newcomb's volume that represented the experiences of predominantly white males attending traditional institutions of higher education, the 2005 Volume 2 sheds light on a wide array of student social identities, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. …

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