Book Reviews

Book by J. Worth Pickering and Gary R. Hanson
Review by Lester J. Manzano
Academic Advisor, Office of Academic Advising and Services
Loyola University Chicago


From state-wide budget cuts to an increased focus on accountability in higher education, student services administrators have reason to assess their programs and conduct research on student learning outcomes related to student affairs services. J. Worth Pickering and Gary Hanson’s edited volume for New Directions for Institutional Research brings together higher education administrators, including student affairs researchers and institutional researchers, to address the need to collaborate in order to create more meaningful data on the student experience. This volume aims to increase “understanding and appreciation of research in student affairs,” all with the hope of “[creating] opportunities in which institutional researchers can work with … student affairs staff to produce research for student affairs practitioners” (p. 2).

Using the American College Personnel Association’s (ACPA) “Student Learning Imperative” as well as ACPA’s and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators’ (NASPA) joint publication, “Good Practices in Student Affairs,” Pickering and Hanson organize the volume’s chapters to provide an overview of the issues and theoretical perspectives of students affairs, present methods by which student affairs research is conducted, and describe ways in which the collaboration between student affairs researchers and institutional researchers can be improved.

This volume is useful in that it provides a comprehensive overview of student affairs research. The contributors within the volume present not only the content of student affairs research, but also the methods in which student affairs research is typically conducted (i.e., through qualitative research methods). Further, the contributors to the volume are both institutional researchers (those whose background may not necessarily be related to studying student development) and student affairs researchers (those who are interested in studying student experiences and learning outcomes). It is important to note this because “student affairs research and institutional research functions often exist in different worlds. …[B]asic differences in perspective and purpose present challenges to optimizing their value in improving the operations and services provided by their institutions” (p. 79).

Well-organized and concise, the volume serves as a useful reference for student affairs research: first, by organizing the work of student affairs research into four areas: “1. Who are today’s college students? 2. How do they experience college? 3. What do students learn in college, and who did they become? 4. How does college affect what students learn and who they become?” (p. 6); and, second, by providing a list of the “top 23 research questions” in student affairs as well as a list of Web-based assessment and research resources.

This volume for the New Directions in Institutional Research series was published in 2000 following the release of ACPA’s “Student Learning Imperative” in 1996 and the joint publication from ACPA and NASPA, “Good Practices in Student Affairs.” A newer publication from ACPA and NASPA, “Learning Reconsidered”, provides another perspective in understanding the student experience. The 2004 publication “advocate[s] for transformative education – a holistic process of learning that places the student at the center of the learning experience” (ACPA and NASPA, 2004). This publication, and the subsequent 2006 publication of Learning Reconsidered 2, may date this text. However the information regarding student affairs research and collaboration between student affairs and institutional researchers remains relevant even though the newer publications call for additional research questions.

This volume would prove helpful to institutional researchers who seek to understand the purpose of student affairs work. In academic advising, our work to improve retention, provide developmental academic advising, and enhance the student academic experience would be measured through qualitative means, and this would complement the work of institutional researchers who may more inclined to utilize quantitative methods to study of retention. As a professional in student services, I found the volume to be helpful in understanding the importance of student affairs research and the ways in which collaboration among researchers in other institutional units can foster greater and more comprehensive research on the student experience.

References:

American College Personnel Association. (1999). “The Student Learning Imperative.” [http://www.myacpa.org/sli/sli.htm].

American College Personnel Association, and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. (1999). “Principles of Good Practice for Student Affairs.” [http://myacpa.org/pgp/principle.htm].

American College Personnel Association, and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. (2004). “Learning Reconsidered.” [http://www.naspa.org/membership/leader_ex_pdf/lr_long.pdf].

American College Personnel Association, Association of College and University Housing Officers
    International, Association of College Unions International, National Academic Advising Association, National Association for Campus Activities, National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. (2006). “Learning Reconsidered 2: A Practical Guide to Implementing a Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience.” [http://www.learningreconsidered.org].


Collaboration Between Student Affairs and Institutional Researchers to Improve Institutional Effectiveness. (2001). Book by J. Worth Pickering and Gary R. Hanson (Eds.). Review by Lester J. Manzano. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 111 pp., $29.00. ISBN # 0-7879-5727-5
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