Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs
Good Practice in Student Affairs:
Today's context for higher education presents student affairs with many challenges. Among these are new technologies, changing student demographics, demands for greater accountability, concern about the increasing cost of higher education, and criticism of the moral and ethical climate on campuses. Institutions of higher learning are also influenced by social and political issues, including multiculturalism, personal responsibility, and equal opportunity. Our response to these challenges will shape our role in higher education. The choice of student affairs educators is simple: We can pursue a course that engages us in the central mission of our institutions or retreat to the margins in the hope that we will avoid the inconvenience of change.
Others in higher education have recognized these challenges and have responded with calls to concentrate "on the core function of the enterprise, that is, focusing on student learning" (Wingspread Group, 1993). Focusing on learning rather than instruction is a fundamental shift in perspective. If the purpose of education is learning, then institutional effectiveness should be measured by specific educational benefits and outcomes rather than by the number of computers, books, faculty, or the size of endowments.
Creating learning environments and learning experiences for students has always been at the heart of student affairs work. The Student Learning Imperative (American College Personnel Association, 1994) asked us to embrace the current challenges as an opportunity to affirm our commitment to student learning and development. As a first step in that direction, the Student Learning Imperative articulated the need for an emphasis on student learning and the value of student affairs educators working collaboratively with students, faculty, academic administrators, and others. The next step is identifying practices that will move our profession forward in its focus on learning and guide us in meeting the challenges with which we are confronted. For this purpose, we have identified principles to guide the daily practice of student affairs work.
Defining Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs
In 1986 in the wake of reports critical of undergraduate education, the Lilly Endowment and the Johnson Foundation sponsored an effort by higher education leaders to identify the most effective approaches to educating undergraduates. From this discussion, Chickering and Gamson (1987) developed seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education: (1) student-faculty contact, (2) cooperation among students, (3) active learning, (4) prompt feedback, (5) time on task, (6) high expectations, and (7) respect for diverse talents and ways of learning. These principles established a concise statement of behaviors associated with high quality undergraduate education that practitioners, scholars, and the general public could understand and use.
Student affairs lacks a comparable statement of good practice. If we are to collaborate with others in higher education to advance student learning, we need clear and concise guidelines for how to proceed. This document -- Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs -- is intended to provide those guidelines. Some of the principles identified for good student affairs practice are similar to those proposed by Chickering and Gamson (1987). The two sets of principles share a commitment to student learning, but the primary audiences for each document and the scope of learning activities addressed are different.
Contexts of Student Affairs PracticeStudent Affairs Commitments and Values
To be meaningful, principles of good practice for student affairs should be consistent with our core values which have been documented throughout the literature of the profession. Since 1937 when the American Council on Education published the first Student Personnel Point of View, our field has produced many documents about student affairs work. These works span seven decades, examining student affairs from different perspectives and for different purposes. They demonstrate our long-standing belief that higher education has a responsibility to develop citizens capable of contributing to the betterment of society. These documents affirm our conviction that higher education has a duty to help students reach their full potential.
Our beliefs about higher education serve as the foundation for our commitment to the development of "the whole person"; our collective professional values are derived from that commitment. Values evident across the history of student affairs work include an acceptance and appreciation of individual differences; lifelong learning; education for effective citizenship; student responsibility; ongoing assessment of learning and performance (students' and our own); pluralism and multiculturalism; ethical and reflective student affairs practice; supporting and meeting the needs of students as individuals and in groups; and freedom of expression with civility. Any statement of principles of good practice for student affairs must be consistent with our profession's values and must help us meet our founding commitments.
The Importance of Context
Our history also reminds us that good student affairs practice must be considered within the context of issues that influence higher education and its missions. Societal concerns and needs, economic conditions, and external political agendas shape the parameters for student affairs work. These conditions emphasize the need for our practices to be informed by research and writing not only about teaching and learning but also concerning the most pressing issues confronting our students and their families.
Institutional contexts influence how principles for good practice are applied. Such contexts within higher education include institutional missions, expectations, and student demographics. In realizing institutional goals, each student affairs division is responsible for managing its resources effectively in support of its institution's mission. This document provides a framework to aid student affairs in meeting these challenges without sacrificing the individuality of their institutions.
Using the Principles
The Principles of Good Practice are not immutable rules, nor do we offer specific instructions for their use at particular institutions. The principles are means to conducting learning-oriented student affairs work, based on extensive research about the impact of college on educational outcomes. As such, they offer unambiguous, yet adaptable, guidelines for productive use of resources for learning.
The principles were written to be incorporated into everyday tasks and interactions with students, faculty, academic administrators, and others. They are intended to shape how we think about our responsibilities, communicate our purposes to others, and engage students. Using the principles as a one-time topic for staff orientation or setting them aside until a crisis occurs for which they might be useful serves little purpose. Rather, the principles should create a continual context for examining and implementing student affairs missions, policies, and programs. They should provide both a guide for assessing the contribution of student affairs to student learning outcomes and a curriculum for ongoing in-service education
Principles of Good Practice
The Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs is intended to guide student affairs practice. The principles are grounded in the research on college students, experiences with effective educational institutions, and the historical commitment of student affairs to students and their learning. Ongoing discussions and research on the principles will further develop our understanding of good practice in student affairs. These principles should not limit or restrain other proven means to enrich the education of students. They are intended not as an end in themselves, but as a means to our common goal: achieving the educational missions of our institutions by focusing on student learning.
American College Personnel Association. (1994). The student learning imperative: Implications for student affairs. Alexandria, VA: Author.
American Council on Education. (1937). The student personnel point of view: A report of a conference on the philosophy and development of student personnel work in colleges and universities (American Council on Education Study, Series 1, Vol. 1, No. 3). Washington, DC: Author.
Chickering, A.W., & Gamson, Z.F. (1987, June). Principles for good practice in undergraduate education [Special insert to The Wingspread Journal, June 1987]. Racine, WI: Johnson Foundation.
Wingspread Group on Higher Education. (1993). An American imperative: Higher expectations for higher education. Racine, WI: The Johnson Foundation.
Inventories for Use With the "Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs"
For each principle presented below is an inventory of items that pertain to that principle. These inventories are designed to help student affairs professionals examine their individual and institutional mission, goals, policies and practices to determine their level of consistency with the identified Principles of Good Practice. Each Inventory can be used to assist student affairs professionals and other members of the campus community to review current activities and to identify new initiatives they might wish to pursue.
An inventory accompanies each of the seven principles: Active Learning, Value and Ethical Standards, High Expectations, Systematic Inquiry, Effective Utilization of Resources, Educational Partnerships, and Supportive and Inclusive Communities. The inventory items that correspond with each principle address policies, practices, institutional culture, norms and expectations that support good practice in student affairs administration. Each inventory can be useful to all campus staff and faculty members who are interested in providing quality services to students and promoting student learning.
The inventories were created to enhance and improve student affairs activities on campuses, not to evaluate current practices. These are to be used as a method of awareness and insight to create opportunities for "program" development, offer ideas or support current activities. Each inventory will be best used as a basis for interpretation and improvement of current methods, not as a basis for judgment about performance, summative evaluation or self-justification.