Book Reviews

Book by Nancy Evans, Deanna S. Forney, Florence M. Guido, Lori D. Patton, &  Kristen A. Renn
Review by Liz Murdock LaFortune
Academic Advisor, First Year of Studies
University of Notre Dame

A textbook for aspiring student affairs personnel and academic advisors and a welcome refresher for seasoned professionals, Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd Edition) provides a comprehensive overview and critique of student development theories as well as recommendations for practical application.  The authors update their 1998 edition with an eye toward addressing the increasingly complex nature of advising the 21st century student.  Though some academic advisors enter the field with a strong understanding of student development theory, others come to the profession with education and training in other academic fields.  This book provides a thorough review of foundational work in theory and application for a broad audience, beginning with cognitive and psychosocial development.  It reaffirms the interrelated nature of these theories, emphasizing D.A. Kolb’s reports on learning styles and the importance of “learning style congruence with academic performance, social adaptation, and career commitment” (p.143) in order for a student to be successful.

In this updated edition, the authors focus on a deeper comprehension of social identity development than presented in their earlier edition, reminding readers “cognitive development cannot be separated from affective and interpersonal development” (p.135).  In Part Four, they have added key discussions of racial, ethnic, multiracial, sexual identity, and gender development theory and practice.  In doing so, the reader is challenged to go beyond standard stage theories that are useful but often insufficient.  Relying on R.F. Rodgers’ definition of student development as “’the ways that a student grows, progresses, or increases his or her developmental capabilities as a result of enrollment in an institution of higher education,’” (p. 6), the text moves forward to advocate for a holistic understanding of each student. 

This book invites a critique of the theory, as well as practices, associated with student development work.  It also highlights areas in need of further attention, which provides a springboard for specific research topics for practicing advisors.  I particularly recommend Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd Edition) as a text for advisors new to the field and for end-of-semester reading for experienced advisors as they review their work and wonder why, despite their best efforts, certain approaches simply did not work with some students.  The text reminds the reader that academic advisors and student affairs professionals can encourage, but not force, students to move beyond their current developmental situations.  Advisors are encouraged to remember that the young adults with whom they work advance the advisors’ knowledge and understanding of unique situations, making them better professionals for the next semester.


Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice (2nd Edition) (2010). Book by Nancy Evans, Deanna S. Forney, Florence M. Guido, Lori D. Patton, &  Kristen A. Renn. Review by Liz Murdock LaFortune. San Francisco,CA: Jossey-Bass.  450 pp., $60.00, (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-7879-7809-9

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