It will take further consideration to reach agreement on the nature of the competencies and how best to represent student achievement. Beyond responding to societal needs, higher education also needs to adapt to advances in our understanding of human development and learning that have direct implications for both the purposes and practices of undergraduate education. More importantly for our purposes, it is the adoption of a developmental model to guide the purposes and practices that constitutes the establishment of a new paradigm for undergraduate education.
Major advances in our understanding of human development and learning have implications for educational practices. Key among these are the recognition of "emerging adulthood" as an especially dynamic time of reorganization and development of the brain; the corresponding changes in societal expectations that give rise to developmental tasks that need to be accomplished; understanding of learning as a process of "meaning making"; and the particular importance of reflective or evaluative thinking.
Emerging adulthood. The increasing length of the transition from childhood to adulthood in our postindustrial society has led Jeffrey Arnett to propose a new phase of development—"emerging adulthood"—spanning the period roughly of ages eighteen to twenty-five.
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It is also marked by changes in physical, cognitive, and emotional development and self-consciousness. Neurocognitive development continues as the brain goes through a remodeling process, particularly with regard to an increase in white matter, which facilitates synaptic connections and transmissions and the development of the prefrontal cortex, which supports executive functions, social cognitions, and self-regulation.
Executive functions refer to the capacities involved in the control and coordination of thoughts and behaviors, including selective attention, decision making, working memory, and voluntary response inhibition. Social cognition includes both self-awareness and perspective taking—that is, the ability to understand others' minds and infer mental states such as intentions, beliefs, and desires.
Self-regulation is an adaptive system that includes both cognitive and affective components and the ability to control ones' attention, emotions, and behavior. Given that the undergraduate experience typically occurs during this period of developmental reorganization and integration, the major implication is that students' cognitive and personal development not only affects the outcome of educational practices, but that it is worth the effort to formulate educational practices that have the potential to promote students' cognitive and personal development.
Developmental tasks. Emerging adulthood is also characterized by changing societal expectations. The biologically based drive toward growth combined with the expectations, constraints, and opportunities provided by the social environment give rise to the concept of developmental tasks that need to be mastered throughout the life course.
Longer Term Consideration
The foremost task is identity formation, which is essentially a process of self-authorship. One must come to terms with new potentialities for thinking, feeling, and acting and rearrange one's self-image accordingly. A second task is developing cognitive and interpersonal competencies, including the capacity for independent thought. A third task is to develop autonomy, not just in terms of independence, but also the capacities for openness to change and self-motivation, self-regulation, and the ability to commit to a point of view.
A fourth task is to develop the capacity for intimacy—that is, mutual openness, responsiveness, and a sense of closeness in friendships and other relationships. Beyond promoting cognitive and personal development, colleges and universities have the opportunity to foster the accomplishment of these essential developmental tasks.
There also have been advances in our understanding of learning, from response acquisition to knowledge acquisition to knowledge construction.
WORLD DECLARATION ON HIGHER EDUCATION FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: VISION AND ACTION
By the beginning of the twenty-first century, Richard Mayer explains, learning was viewed as involving the processes of "selecting relevant information and interpreting it though one's existing knowledge. Learning was understood as best accomplished through discovery guided by mentoring rather than passive receipt of transmitted knowledge, and instruction was increasingly characterized by an emphasis on active, student-centered, experiential learning.
Evaluativist thinking. A personal epistemology that reflects a sophisticated understanding of knowledge is necessary to make meaning of complex information and discern among competing claims. There is a developmental progression in the sophistication of thinking about knowledge, from absolute facts to multiple and relative opinions to evaluative judgments in which knowledge is regarded as continuously evolving and coordinated with justification.
Higher education aims to transform students' ways of thinking, knowing, and understanding in order to assure that students function at the evaluative level. To foster the development of evaluativist thinking, colleges and universities must provide the types of educational experiences that enable students to engage in the processes of inquiry and reasoned argument and to discover for themselves that these processes are empowering and useful for problem solving, discerning among competing claims, and resolving conflicts.
The understanding of emerging adulthood as an active period of reshaping of the brain, the accomplishment of essential developmental tasks, and the development of evaluativist thinking serve to enhance the motivation to determine ways in which undergraduate educational experiences can make a difference in the formative development of our students.
To be responsive to this opportunity, colleges and universities must recommit to providing a formative education that is both liberal and practical, and adopt a developmental model to guide, integrate, and evaluate practices. There is no single developmental model, but rather a way of thinking about education that draws on various theories and empirical evidence regarding progressive changes in biopsychosocial development that characterize the late-adolescent and emerging-adulthood periods in our culture.
More specifically, a developmental model views undergraduate education as a process of cognitive and personal growth that involves empathy as well as reasoning, values as well as knowledge, and identity as well as competencies. Adopting a developmental model not only focuses attention on the role of particular educational practices in fostering the development of specific skills and dispositions, but it also provides a basis for integrating academic units, student affairs, and athletics around the common task of promoting development of the whole person.
A developmental model makes clear that the task of promoting personal development as well as learning is the common task that unites faculty and staff as educators. A developmental model also makes clear that the goal of higher education is to transform students' ways of thinking, knowing, and understanding.
Often, these changes in understanding involve issues of identity regarding ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, sexuality, values, and commitments. This transformation in the understanding of oneself links the development of the necessary higher-order mental capabilities with the developmental task of identity formation and integration that is central to emerging adulthood. As Jay Brandenberger explains, experiential pedagogies in particular, such as forms of service learning that combine community service with classroom experience, "have strong potentials to unite elements too long separated in the academy: thinking and feeling, reflection and action, theory and practice.
A developmental model also makes clear the importance of academic advising and support services in the common mission of promoting the development of the whole person. Framed through the perspective of a developmental model, advising and academic support services are teaching processes that are accomplished in the context of a caring, affirming relationship.
The aim is to help students feel valued and connected to the institution as well as both empowered and responsible for engaging the resources of the college or university for their own education and growth. The specific objectives include the development of students as self-regulated, lifelong learners who have both the ability to make accurate self-appraisals of their strengths and weaknesses and openness to acquiring the new skills they need to be successful.
Finally, a developmental model provides a basis for an integrated and holistic assessment plan to evaluate the effects of pedagogical, curricular, and student-life initiatives that are aimed at multiple dimensions of student development and student learning. Once gathered, the assessment information needs to be analyzed through a collective process of meaning making by faculty and staff in order to identify opportunities and approaches to improve educational practices. Adopting a developmental model as the new paradigm for liberal education provides a much-needed integrating framework for colleges and universities that unites all components of the academic community in the common mission of empowering students for a life of meaning and purpose.
This makes it intentional that the aim is for students to discover that they have developed their own unique personal style; that they have something to say in their own way; that they are responsible for what they say and do; that they are worthy of self-respect and the respect of others; and, ultimately, that they can realize their own humanity as creative, empathetic, and committed people. Robert J. Thompson Jr. Ronald G. Norton, , William M. Donald W. Robert D. Douglas C. Bennett, Grant H.
Barbara K. Hofer and Paul R. Daniel K. Lapsley and F. To respond to this article, e-mail liberaled aacu. Search form Search. Buy Print Copies. Current Issue. Search Periodicals. Table of Contents Overview. From the Editor. Rethinking the Student Course Evaluation.
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Globalizing the Curriculum. Redesigning the First-Year Orientation Course. A New Paradigm for Liberal Education. Standing up to Managerialism. Liberal Education. The social contract The dynamic tension between the purposes of an undergraduate education and its guiding model goes to the heart of the social contract for higher education. Reframing the liberal arts and sciences model Beyond transforming its educational goals and practices, adaptation to the societal needs of the twenty-first century requires a reframing of the underlying liberal arts and sciences model of undergraduate education for a new era.
Developmental science Major advances in our understanding of human development and learning have implications for educational practices. A developmental model of education There is no single developmental model, but rather a way of thinking about education that draws on various theories and empirical evidence regarding progressive changes in biopsychosocial development that characterize the late-adolescent and emerging-adulthood periods in our culture.
Conclusion Adopting a developmental model as the new paradigm for liberal education provides a much-needed integrating framework for colleges and universities that unites all components of the academic community in the common mission of empowering students for a life of meaning and purpose.
Notes 1. Menand, Marketplace , Previous Issues. See All. Building a New Liberal Education. This issue of Liberal Education starts off looking at who and where our future students are and Read more. Claiming the Narrative: Sharing Our Stories. This issue explores approaches to claiming the narrative about the value of liberal education, with Covering a wide array of topics—democratic engagement between universities and communities; This issue explores the role of faculty development in creating educational spaces that welcome Taking Stock of the Assessment Movement.
Liberal Education for an Inventive America. At its best, a contemporary liberal education helps form students as creative, innovative, What Happens to Quality in an Age of Disruption? Global Learning for All. Celebrating Years of Leadership for Liberal Education. Leading Change from the Classroom. This issue focuses on the leadership role individual faculty members can play as agents of Quality, E-Quality, and Opportunity.
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