Alexander Astin's Theory of Involvement: A Summary
By Krista Hutley, Center for the Advancement of
(edited by Phyllis McCluskey-Titus, Educational Administration and
Illinois State University
The most basic tenet of Astin's Theory of Involvement is that students
learn more the more they are involved in both the academic and social
aspects of the collegiate experience. An involved student is one
who devotes considerable energy to academics, spends much time on
campus, participates actively in student organizations and activities,
and interacts often with faculty (Astin, 1984, p.292). Different
from the role of the student in Astin's earlier "input-process-output"
model (Pascarella, 1991, P.50), where the student is passively developed
by the faculty and by university programs, this theory posits that
the student plays an integral role in determining his or her own
degree of involvement in college classes, extracurricular activities
and social activities. Of course, the more quality resources available,
the more likely those students who are involved will grow or develop.
Therefore, faculty interaction both inside and outside the classroom
and high quality university programs and polices reflective of institutional
commitment to student learning are necessary for student growth.
Astin states that the quality and quantity of the student's involvement
will influence the amount of student learning and development (Astin,
1984, p.297). True involvement requires the investment of energy
in academic, relationships and activities related to the campus
and the amount of energy invested will vary greatly depending on
the student's interests and goals, as well as the student's other
commitments. The most important institutional resource, therefore,
is student time: the extent to which students can be involved in
the educational development is tempered by how involved they are
with family friends, jobs, and other outside activities (p.301).
There are several practical applications resulting from this theory,
but Astin states that the most important to teaching is that instructors
are encouraged to take the focus off the course content and their
own technique and put it on their students. Astin states that the
intended end of institutional and pedagogical practices is to achieve
maximum student involvement and learning; to do that instructors
cannot focus solely on technique but must also be aware of how motivated
students are and how much time and energy they are devoting to the
learning process (p.305).
According to Astin, his theory of involvement has an advantage
over traditional pedagogical approaches because it focuses on the
motivation and behavior of the student. Therefore all institutional
policies and practices can be judged by the degree of involvement
they foster in student. Also, all faculty, from instructors to counselors,
can work with the same goal in mind, unifying their energies into
making the students more involved in the college environment and
therefore better learners (p.307).
Astin, A.W. (1984). Student Involvement: A developmental theory
for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25,
Kuh, G.D., Schuh, J., Whitt, E. & Associates. (1991). Involving
Colleges. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Pascarella, Ernest T., & Terenzini, Patrick T. (1991). How College
Affects Students: Findings and Insights from Twenty Years of Research.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 50-51.
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