Evaluation of postsecondary education first year transition programs for intellectual development principles

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Evaluation of postsecondary education first year transition programs for intellectual development principles
Vance, Melissa
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College freshmen -- Intellectual life ( lcsh )
College student orientation ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Colorado Denver, 2010.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 112-122).
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Melissa Vance.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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|Auraria Library
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Full Text
Melissa Vance
B.S., University of Iowa, 1990
M.A., Regis University, 2004
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Melissa Vance
has been approved


Vance, Melissa (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation, School of Education
and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver)
Evaluation of Postsecondary Education First Year Transition Programs for
Intellectual Development Principles
Thesis directed by Professor Brent G. Wilson
This comparative case study describes and evaluates programs designed to
assist students with the first year transition into postsecondary education. Rather than
focusing on quantitative measures of student completion, retention, or graduation, this
case study uses qualitative methods to examine the ways faculty incorporate
principles of intellectual development into transition programs. Frequently, first year
transition programs are primarily designed to orient students to college life or to
improve study skills instead of explicitly promoting intellectual development.
The qualitative methods used to evaluate the programs included interviews
with administrators, faculty, and students, classroom observations, and assessment of
pedagogical artifacts. The findings from this study can be utilized to improve
transition programs to promote adult intellectual development. From the evaluation of
two specific first year transition programs, recommendations are developed for any
such program seeking to incorporate intellectual development principles into the

curriculum, faculty training, or student experience. The recommendations provided
are designed to foster intellectual development and thus help students learn how to
think and how to acquire knowledge, not simply how to study.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates
its publication
Brent G. Wilson

This thesis is dedicated to students who want to learn how to think and not just how
to study; learners who show resilience, determination, and perseverance even when
someone else tells them it is unlikely they will finish.

My thanks to my advisor Brent G. Wilson for always being consistent, timely,
supportive, and encouraging, even when my only obstacle was myself. I thank Franci
Crepeau Hobson for challenging me in my writing skills because she knew I had the
ability. My thanks to Jean Scandlyn for always making suggestions just beyond my
reach, and for being my role model as an advocate for marginalized students. I also
thank Wayne Gilbert for recognizing and nourishing my interest in intellectual
development especially in adults who have been cast aside. The support my
committee has given me has sustained me through a long journey with many
unexpected turns.

Tables .........................................................x
AND RESEARCH ...................................................1
Statement of the Research Problem.......................10
Need or Significance....................................13
Research Questions......................................16
Study Limitations and Delimitations.....................18
Researcher's Perspective................................19
2. REVIEW OF LITERATURE...........................................20
Intellectual Development................................21
Transition Period.......................................32
Postsecondary Education.................................35
P20 Education...........................................38
Existing Transition Programs............................40
3. METHOD ........................................................44

Research Design and Rationale.............................44
Participants and Site.....................................45
Data Collection...........................................49
Data Analysis.............................................53
4. FINDINGS......................................................55
Program Level.............................................56
Curriculum Level..........................................60
Faculty Interviews........................................69
Student Interviews........................................77
Summary of Findings.......................................84
5. DISCUSSION....................................................88
Program Level.............................................88
Curriculum Level........................................ 91
Implications for Future Research.........................100
A. RESEARCH QUESTIONS.......................................102

C. CONSENT FORM..........................108

1. Summary of intellectual development models............................29
2. Summary of curriculum methods and categories supported................52
3. Summary of key findings...............................................87
4. Summary of recommendations............................................99

Adults who are transitioning into postsecondary education often face more
challenges than just acquiring academic knowledge; for example, new authority
figures, diverse peers, and making adult decisions for the first time. The transition to
postsecondary education is just one of many transitions along the education pipeline,
but it may be the most unpredictable transition because every student and every
institution handles the transition differently. More services, programs, and policies
focusing on this transition are being developed, and many states have recently
developed P20 education councils to address all of the transitions throughout the
educational life cycle; however, some states are primarily focused on transitions in
the earlier grades (Chamberlin & Plucker, 2008). Of the programs or policies specific
to the transition to postsecondary education, it has not yet been well documented
which programs are impacting the transition to postsecondary education, and of the
existing programs, most focus on remedial/developmental education, skill
development, or earning credits (Gelber, 2007). Much less focus is placed on the
intellectual development of adults; how they acquire knowledge, make meaning, and
recognize the truth. If these students are not yet intellectually ready for the adult

experiences and decisions which arise during postsecondary education, then first year
transition programs that focus only on remedial skills or earning credits may not be
sufficient to promote healthy intellectual development.
Parents, state agencies, and employers increasing demand that colleges focus
attention on both academic learning and the personal development of students.
Graham and Cockriel (1996) even suggest that colleges and universities should
measure personal development that occurs in college to determine if students can lead
productive lives and address major societal issues such as poverty, crime, economic
development, and diversity. Pascarella, Ethington, and Smart (1988) state that one of
the goals of colleges has been academic growth as well as fostering a students sense
of moral and civic responsibility; that college is a fundamental institution which
prepares emerging adults for involved citizenship in a democracy. Indeed, Baxter
Magolda (2007) contends that college is an ideal context in which to introduce
provocative experiences, demonstrate the complexities of adult life, and guide
students through the developmental transitions that lead to inner wisdom. Higher
order thinking and the ability to make reasoned judgments have long been a hallmark
of liberal education (King, 1992). Yet most research suggests that the attainment of a
critically aware stance toward knowledge is less common in adulthood than hoped
(King& Kitchener, 1994; Kuhn, 1991).

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (2002) charged
postsecondary institutions with providing educational environments that foster
intellectual resilience, an interest in life-long learning, and responsibility for the
ethical consequences of ones ideas and actions. One method to address this charge is
for undergraduate educational institutions to create opportunities for learning that
expand students curiosity and promote intellectual development (Evenbeck &
Hamilton, 2006). Intellectual development is not the same as aptitude or academic
achievement (DeMars & Erwin, 2003), and intellectual development is different than
physical or cognitive development (Regan, 1982). Intellectual development pertains
to how people acquire knowledge, how they make meaning, how they know the truth,
and how they express their voice. Other terms to describe aspects of intellectual
development include maturity, ethical development, or epistemology (Hofer, 2001).
The process of intellectual development is complex, involving changes in
students intellectual skills and their attitudes towards authorities, peers, and
themselves (Felder & Brent, 2004). Intellectual development describes how adults
construct and impart knowledge, and in college it is influenced by classroom
instruction, instructor attitudes, and peer diversity (Felder & Brent, 2004). As
students progress through college, their beliefs are challenged by instructors, peers,
and life experiences, and unless students firmly resist those challenges (which some
do) the rigidity of their beliefs dissolves and intellectual growth occurs. Kroll (1992)

describes intellectual development as the progression from ignorant certainty to
intelligent confusion.
Kegan (1994) explains that it is not what students think but rather how
students think that is crucial to the learning process. Kegan (1994) asserts that
students who believe knowledge is certain and held by authorities ask instructors to
provide the truth. So when instructors do not impart the one clear truth, students view
faculty as incompetent, while faculty assume that students who want only answers are
poorly prepared or lazy. Conversely, students who believe knowledge is relative,
contextual, and acquired through inquiry, want instructors to guide them in the
process (Kegan, 1994). Most college students undergo an intellectual developmental
progression from a belief in the certainty of knowledge and the infallibility of
authorities to an acknowledgment of the contextual nature and uncertainty of
knowledge (Felder & Brent, 2005). Students move to acceptance of personal
responsibility for determining truth, and the ability to gather supporting evidence for
judgments (Felder & Brent).
William Perry (1970) was the first to research and document the steps of
intellectual development in college students. As Perry and his associates studied how
college students interpret and make meaning, they created a model based on the
progression students made to higher levels of intellectual development (Song, 2006).
Thomas (2008) contends that Perrys model of intellectual development shows that

the most significant shifts occur during college or young adulthood, when students
are confronted with and must reconcile multiple authorities. Perrys (1970) theory is
that all adults progress through intellectual milestones, although not at the same rate
or due to the same triggers. Perry (1970) also contends that delays in achieving
intellectual milestones may hamper academic progress for young adults. Perrys
scheme has relevance today because the basic underlying structure is of movement
from a right-wrong mentality, to one in which multiple viewpoints are valid, and
finally to one in which evaluations of evidence are made in a relativistic world
(Thomas, 2008).
Even when educators and legislators agree that learning outcomes of higher
education should include effective citizenship, critical thinking, complex problem
solving, interdependent relations with diverse people, and mature decision making
(all signs of intellectual development), too often students enter college having learned
how to follow formulas for success, lacking exposure to diverse opinions, or even
unsure about their own beliefs and values (Baxter Magolda, 2007). Typically, for
most students entering college, the context where prior learning occurred was often
classrooms where students experience formal learning as the accumulation of facts to
be handed back to instructors on examinations, then promptly forgotten (Evenbeck &
Hamilton, 2006). Clouder (1998) argues that the aim of any educational process
should not just be learning a body of knowledge, but a personal awareness by the

student of their own epistemic assumptions and the intellectual capacity to challenge
those assumptions in themselves and in others. Students should consider issues,
compare perspectives, synthesize new and existing knowledge and make decisions in
context with their own beliefs and values.
Students academic achievement may be depicted quantitatively in terms of
courses passed and facts acquired, but Wilson (1981) contends that qualitative
changes in how students conceptualize reality are more significant. Pascarella and
Terenzini (1991) found that many students graduate from college untouched by the
experience in terms of their intellectual development. Certificate or degree
completion cannot always be equated with knowledge acquisition or intellectual
development because our postsecondary system and students themselves exhibit so
much variation (Social Science Research Council, 2005). Certainly, not all students
who complete a degree will grow in terms of intellectual development; in contrast,
students who never finish their degree might indeed leave the experience with the
ability to self advocate, to critically reflect, and recognize multiple perspectives.
Intellectual development is truly generalizable because students will use this in many
aspects of their adult lives beyond the classroom (King, 2000).
Growth and development can occur naturally, yet Katung, Johnstone, and
Downie (1999) argue that despite the developmental nature of education, little or no
use is made of developmental models in most teaching methods at the college level.

Furthermore, Geisler-Brenstein, Schmeck, and Hetherington (1996) argue that
postsecondary institutions are failing on this issue because faculty do not have
sufficient information about students variability along the intellectual scale or how to
promote development. In one study by Wilson (2000), different levels of awareness
across faculty actually deterred intellectual development in students. For example,
instructors who were unfamiliar with intellectual development models more often
relied on rigid, formal lectures with no student participation or the need for relevance
and practicality. Whereas, faculty with more knowledge about intellectual
development were more flexible and liberal, valuing independent thinking and a
responsibility for learning.
Certainly, faculty cannot assess each students individual development level,
and even if an instructor knows the optimum teaching styles for each level of
development, it would be impossible to implement all the methods in a class with
more than two students (Felder & Brent, 2005). However, Gaff (1991) found that
after explaining intellectual models, faculty attitudes toward student behavior
improved. In another study, faculty found that using methods designed to promote
intellectual development changed students views of the world, broke down
prejudices, and gave them new ideas for social problems (Eljamal, Stark, Arnold, &
Sharp, 1999). To this end, researchers have been attempting to translate Perrys
(1970) scheme into suggestions for the classroom for the past four decades (Hofer,

2001). Perrys scheme offers faculty insights to students developmental levels and
creates methods to teach at the appropriate level (Thomas, 2008). However,
developmental models should not be used to drive students into higher levels of
development; faculty should merely create the context for students to encounter,
deliberate, and reconcile knowledge (Perry, 1970; Thomas, 2008). Kardash and
Scholes (1996) caution that faculty should focus less on moving students from one
level to the next, and more on helping students understand their own epistemological
Faculty can promote intellectual development without forcing a measurable
move up the scale; encouraging development really means assisting students to find
their own capabilities (Katung et al., 1999). It is important to note that students who
are developing must deal with the sense of loss, the loss of certainty that has sustained
them in a confusing world (Kloss, 1994). In facing developmental change and loss of
the familiar, students move towards growth with an urge to mature, aware of the
limitations of their current thought processes, and motivated by a desire to share
community with teachers and peers; but at the same time, students are held back by a
weaker urge to conserve or to stay in the familiar (Katung et al., 1999). When
students lose the familiarity of their current level and face growing to a new level, it
is often accompanied by feelings of anxiety, doubt, and frustration, which are not
conducive to learning (Baxter Magolda, 2000).

Therefore, current belief systems of students should be challenged, but with
sufficient support (Parker, 1978). Clouder (1998) agrees that at every stage faculty
need to provide a balance of timely challenges and appropriate support to promote
growth in students. According to Felder and Brent (2004), the mission for faculty is to
provide enough challenge to students beliefs about knowledge to motivate them to
grow, but not so much that they become paralyzed or retreat. The tandem mission is
to provide the right level of support to confront the challenge, while respecting the
current level of intellectual development. These tasks pose a dilemma for faculty
because in any class, students can be found at all levels of intellectual development,
so not all methods will be effective for all students (Felder & Brent, 2004).
Even though many students do not pursue postsecondary education, nor do all
students who enroll actually complete their degree, and not all who get their degree
will grow intellectually, this study is based on the premise that colleges and
universities have an obligation to the students to promote intellectual development.
For those institutions who already offer some sort of first year transition program for
new students, this may be the best opportunity to introduce intellectual development.
Faculty can be trained and curriculum can be developed or enhanced around fostering
intellectual development, even if there is not adequate time or resources to measure
students developmental level at the beginning and the end. Indeed, students might

not even measurably advance in intellectual development during the short time of the
transition program.
This could be analogous to drivers education. Not all young drivers are
required in all states to take formal classroom drivers education. Certainly, those
who do take classroom instruction are not guaranteed to improve their driving skills;
however, the community benefits from offering classroom driver education to
supplement the actual skill development young drivers acquire in the real world. It is
possible that the seeds planted in the driver education classroom may not develop
until a later time, after the tests and assessments have been done, but if the exposure
in a classroom leads to better, more mature drivers in the long run, then it was
Statement of the Research Problem
The problem addressed by this case study is the lack of qualitative data which
examine how first year transition programs and faculty incorporate intellectual
development into their programs, and how the students respond. Using exploratory
methods to gather qualitative data which describe how transition programs may or
may not be promoting intellectual development could lead to program improvements,
new curriculum, or faculty trainings.
Researchers have studied several aspects of the postsecondary experience to
identify the factors with the most impact on moving students into higher education.

Some of the individual factors already studied in depth include academic
achievement, financial need, demographics, work status, support systems, and
motivation (Goldrick-Rab, Carter & Wagner, 2007). Typically, these studies examine
causal or correlational links between different factors a student may possess, and any
impact that has on the student accessing or completing a postsecondary degree (Karp
& Hughes, 2008).
With the recent growth in P20 strategies, there is more interest in the full life
cycle of education and the transition periods, not simply counting who moves forward
and their demographic traits. Research examining how intellectual development
impacts the transition from high school to postsecondary education is limited to the
past 40 years, since Perrys groundbreaking model was introduced (Thomas, 2008).
The focus thus far for researchers interested in intellectual development appears to be
quantitatively measuring the movement of students up the scale. Studies by Kloss
(1994), Graham and Cockriel (1996), Wise, Lee, Litzinger, Marra, and Palmer
(2004), and Keen (2001) have measured the growth of students up the scale of
intellectual development when they first transition to postsecondary education. In all
of these studies, student growth was measured using interviews or survey tools
developed from Perrys original scheme. This approach is time consuming, suffers
from subject mortality, and the scoring procedure for interviews is very complex
(Wise et al., 2004; Keen, 2001). In addition, Wood, Kitchener, and Jensen (2002)

found that using surveys to study epistemological development is problematic
because of the complexity of intellectual growth, which may occur in small
increments, while surveys and questionnaires only allow for predetermined
Furthermore, Pascarella (1991) argues that studies focusing on the amount of
growth after freshmen year probably overestimate the net effect of college courses
because intellectual growth can be attributed to influences outside of the classroom.
Terenzini and Pascarella (1994) showed that student intellectual growth is only
trivially related to traditional measures, such as expenditures per student,
faculty/student ratios, faculty salaries, and research productivity. Instead, they found
the real impact on students intellectual growth came from what a college does to tie
academic activities to social, personal, and ethical growth. Hofer (2001) contends that
the wide variation in intellectual level amongst college seniors suggests a need to
study the multiple factors which influence this period of life, such as the impact of
faculty belief systems on students, and which activities promote intellectual growth
inside and outside the classroom. Katung et al. (1999) agree that the weakness of
studies that measure the increment a student grows intellectually is that they do not
explain how the growth occurs; the student is treated as a passive recipient of the
methods the instructors utilize.

As Felder and Brent (2004) state, if the goal is to promote intellectual growth
for a collection of students, then having a valid measure of where they started and
where they finished may not be essential. They contend that it is enough to know that
any college course will have students across many levels, and thus, instruction that
balances challenge with support should be designed for the needs of all the students.
Need or Significance
Intellectual development in emerging adults is significant because those who
grow in intellectual development are better able to advocate for themselves (Belenky
et al., 1986); are more tolerant of diverse people (Baxter Magolda, 2000); and are
more adept at critically examining ideas instead of accepting statements without
explanation (Perry, 1970). While previous research has shown the steps of intellectual
development, and the benefits to adults and society, some may question the need to
study intellectual development in college students. However, these kinds of studies
can help colleges to measure the effectiveness of student transition programs and they
provide accountability for what students learn (DeMars & Erwin, 2003). Hofer (2001)
argues there is still much to learn about the intellectual development of college
students, including what experiences foster development and which academic tasks
promote development. According to Hofer (2004) evidence exists that intellectual
development occurs during college (Baxter Magolda, 2001; Perry, 1970), but a need

for a better understanding of how faculty implement these practices and how students
interpret the activities designed to promote intellectual development.
According to Mayhew, Wolniak, and Pascarella (2007), the college conditions
and experiences that lead to intellectual growth have rarely been examined as an area
of research in their own right, which leaves educators and institutions with little
guidance to make changes which will motivate students to grow intellectually.
Furthermore, because the limited studies on intellectual growth have focused on
measuring the actual amount a student progresses, there is a need for exploratory
research to discover which learning methods promote intellectual growth, especially
in students who do not excel in academic achievement (Keen, 2001). In addition,
according to the Social Science Research Council (2005), good data, strong
scholarship, and a comprehensive understanding of the dynamics in the transition to
postsecondary education are critical to improving equal opportunity in higher
This comparative case study of transition programs explores and examines
these three areas: faculty awareness and implementation of intellectual development,
which curriculum methods are being utilized, and how students interpret the faculty
and the curriculum. P20 councils and institutions could use these results to
recommend faculty training, new learning strategies, or even the timing of when
students are exposed to different activities. Furthermore, first year transition programs

could also use the results from this case study to create new curriculum, goals, or
objectives. Existing first year transition programs may foster intellectual development
unintentionally, not realizing the positive impact on students. The results and
recommendations from this study allow first year transition programs to identify and
document their efforts, and justify the benefits of offering transition programs. This
qualitative case study reveals and confirms curriculum or methods which promote
intellectual development in transitional students. One goal of this study is to evaluate
and analyze qualitative data about curriculum and about transitioning students
regarding intellectual development and to encourage the use of intellectual
development models by postsecondary institutions.
Even if the ultimate goal of a state, a P20 council, or a college is to increase
student retention and degree completion, fostering intellectual development when
students enter a whole new world is a worthwhile goal. If a student is involved in a
first year transition program and passes an intellectual milestone, even if they leave
that college, they still benefit. From this comparative case study, an application model
could be developed that assesses transition programs, or even other college courses
for the utilization of intellectual development, how faculty implement these methods,
and how students respond.
This study is not designed to show how incorporating intellectual
development in college transition programs helps to retain students or improve

graduation rates. In fact, measuring degree completion is already riddled with
obstacles because students often transfer or leave and return in later years (Louie,
2007). The argument can be made that programs designed to help students transition
to college are providing valuable skills and knowledge even if those students do not
graduate from the same school or in the typical time frame. Instead, this comparative
case study examines a small sample of college first year transition programs. The
question is not which of these programs produces better outcomes, because all have
the potential to improve student retention. The general question posed in this study is
how each of these programs incorporates intellectual development principles, even if
the program might not be intentionally trying to foster intellectual development.
Research Questions
This comparative case study describes each transition program examined, and
evaluates the program for elements of intellectual development. For each program,
four research questions are examined:
1. At a descriptive level, how is the program designed and organized? What are
the stated goals, vision, and foundational principles and values? How is
the program organized to accomplish or implement that vision?
2. What curriculum methods are used and do they promote intellectual

a. Based on a preexisting framework of methods, which are used and
with what frequency?
b. What other methods are used that are intended to achieve outcomes
related to intellectual development?
3. What level of faculty awareness and implementation of intellectual
development concepts is present?
a. How do faculty activities within classes and with students relate to
principles of intellectual development?
b. How do faculty see their role and how does their perceived role
relate to intellectual development?
c. How do faculty see the program and organization and implementation
- and its relation to intellectual development?
4. How do students report their experience, particularly relating to intellectual
a. How do students interpret faculty efforts in this regard?
b. How do students interpret curriculum methods and program elements
c. Do students show awareness or growth relating to intellectual
development and how do they link their personal growth to their
program experience?

Study Limitations and Delimitations
This comparative case study is limited to existing programs designed to help
first year students transition into postsecondary education. Transition programs that
volunteer to participate in the study received a copy of the final report. Transition
programs were required to provide access to administrators, faculty, students, and
artifacts of their transition program. Data collection did not include identifying traits,
demographic information, or academic performance indicators of individual students.
Due to the exploratory nature of the study, two first year transition programs
were studied in depth. Programs in the Denver metro area were contacted initially for
interest, due to the authors knowledge of higher education policies and institutions in
Colorado. The sampling method for the programs was purposive; programs who
agreed to participate had to meet a set of criteria. The sampling method for individual
interviews with faculty and students limits the selection of participants because rather
than random selection, a snowball method was used where interview participants
suggested other faculty or students, who were then asked to volunteer.
The study is also constrained by the new framework created to evaluate the
program for elements of intellectual development. The framework was not available
to the programs prior to the study, but the programs are evaluated for adherence to the
framework. The study is not meant to be a diagnostic tool, but to show validity of the

framework in evaluating programs for practices that have been shown to promote
intellectual development in students.
Researcher's Perspective
The author of this study is completing a PhD in Education at University of
Colorado Denver. Along with a Masters degree in Adult Education from Regis
University, the author has 18 years of experience teaching and coaching adult learners
in various settings. The author will receive no compensation from any of the
programs studied.

This review of the pertinent literature focuses on five key areas. First, it
presents a detailed description of intellectual development and the major models
developed over the years. Even though this study does not measure where students fit
on any model, understanding the progressive nature of intellectual development is
crucial to this study. Second, the transition period of the population of students in this
study is described. This population usually consists of young adults shortly after high
school graduation, entering some type of postsecondary education for the first time.
There are aspects of this population that are unique and do not typically pertain to
older adult students. Third, it discusses postsecondary education, mainly the need for
higher education in our communities and how institutions are addressing this need
operationally. Fourth, it includes a description of P20 education and why states are
implementing this approach and the strategies that could impact higher education.
P20 education councils are also discussed because they are likely to be interested in
the findings from this study. Lastly, a summary of the major types of first year
transition programs existing at postsecondary institutions is provided. This
description is not exhaustive of all possible programs, but intended to give the reader
an introduction to how first year transition programs are commonly structured.

Intellectual Development
Intellectual development is different than physical or cognitive development
(Kegan, 1982). Physical development encompasses the steps of physiological and
biological processes, such as height and weight or motor coordination. Cognitive
development covers the ability to remember, reason, or solve problems. Intellectual
development is similar to physical and cognitive development in that it follows a
progression and there are milestones (Kegan, 1982). Physical milestones in human
development include sitting, walking, bladder control, or reaching puberty. Cognitive
milestones include learning to count, to read, or reason through problems. Intellectual
milestones include finding ones voice, self-advocacy, or the ability to critically
reflect (Belenky et al., 1986). Similar to physical or cognitive development,
intellectual development consists of transition periods, or stages, between milestones.
All three forms of development do not occur by a certain age, or even in a set
order, however, there are norms for the developmental steps in the human population.
The trouble is that the norms for physical and cognitive development are easier to
determine and observe than the norms for intellectual development (Kegan, 1982).
The milestones for intellectual development usually occur as people move toward
adult life, and are more difficult to observe directly (Perry, 1970). Even so, if physical
or cognitive or intellectual milestones are delayed, that persons growth and learning
are impacted. Generally speaking, if a child in first grade has not achieved the

physical milestone of bladder control or a child in sixth grade has not reached the
cognitive milestone of comprehending fractions their learning will be impacted.
Similarly, it is also likely that a 20 year old in college who does not know how to
self-advocate might struggle.
Intellectual development is also similar to physical and cognitive development
in that it typically results from a challenge, or a need to overcome an obstacle (Kegan,
1982). With physical development, a challenge is what promotes learning to walk or
balance on a bicycle. In cognitive development, the need to communicate with others
leads to the ability to remember numbers or grammar. In intellectual development, the
challenges may be much more provocative, such as an ethical or moral dilemma. The
need to relate to a wide variety of people may be the impetus which causes a person
to completely shift how they acquire knowledge or view the world. Teaching another
person how to ride a bike or do algebra is not as controversial as presenting them with
ethical dilemmas or uncomfortable social situations.
The literature shows that the development to adulthood tends to follow
progressive stages. One of the first to study intellectual development in adults
specifically apart from child development was Perry (1970). Perry stated that what an
organism does is organize, and what a human organism organizes is meaning. Even
though his theories were based on studying privileged college students, they provided
a foundation to the field. Many subsequent models of development have their roots in

Perrys model (Thomas, 2008). These research based models extend Perrys claims
by including samples of students that reflect the increasingly diverse college
population (Thomas, 2008). The models included in this discussion are those
developed by Belenky et al. (1986), Baxter Magolda (2000), and Kitchener and King
(1981). All of the models discussed are based on the principle that ways and patterns
of making meaning are socially constructed (Felder & Brent, 2004). These models all
suggest that college students thinking progresses from a state of simple, absolute
certainty into a multifaceted, evaluative system (West, 2004).
All of the models are based on these common elements: the definition of
knowledge, how knowledge is constructed, how knowledge is evaluated, where
knowledge resides, and how knowing occurs (Hofer, 2001). Despite the fact that each
theorist has his/her own slightly different emphasis, the collective ideas are based on
a developmental progression that proceeds in stages or levels of increasing
complexity (Clouder, 1998). All of the models show progression to higher stages
where learners would reject the statements at earlier stages (DeMars & Erwin, 2003);
thus, students would not be in stage two and stage three at the same time, but would
progress to stage three when stage two no longer fits. It is when students become
dissatisfied with their current beliefs, and accept the new alternatives that they
progress to a new stage (Pintrich, Marx, & Boyle, 1993). However, intellectual
development is not always a neat, linear process (Felder & Brent, 2004); there may be

periods of suspension or reversal of growth. Regardless of the model, researchers in
this area presume that educational experiences play a role in fostering development or
progression (Hofer, 2001).
The seminal work of Perry (1970) and his colleagues outlines the process of
intellectual development of a group of Harvard University undergraduate males as a
sequence of positions based on each students notion of what knowledge consists of
(West, 2004). The first position is dualism, where students believe authorities know
right from wrong. The second position is multiplicity, where students believe
information is not absolute or externally controlled. Relativism is the third position,
where opinions are evaluated based on context and evidence. The fourth position
concerns commitments that people make when faced with the uncertainty of the
relativistic world.
Perry (1970) noted that for students who only experienced high school
education as the teacher imparting information for them to absorb and repeat,
especially if this information was not contradicted in the home, those students entered
college in the dualist mode where they believe authorities know the right answer
(Felder & Brent, 2004). However, Perry noticed that dualist students were often
prodded to move to multiplicity by the diversity of opinions they encountered from
peers and professors (Felder & Brent, 2004). For students in Perrys relativist

position, they accept that there are many perspectives but have trouble choosing one;
they believe evidence is important, but they see others opinions as a source of
evidence (DeMars & Erwin, 2003). Lastly, and more rare, college students in the
commitment stage are able to evaluate the different perspectives and commit to their
decisions (DeMars & Erwin, 2003).
A final part of Perrys (1970) model is the three alternatives to growth, when
progression halts. First, temporizing, when students are aware of the forces
compelling them to change but hesitate to do so. Second, retreat, when students reject
the challenge to their beliefs and take refuge in a lower position. Third, escape, when
students hide behind the viewpoint that all opinions are valid, and avoid seeking
evidence (Felder & Brent, 2004).
Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule
When Belenky et al. (1986) applied the research of Perry (1970) to womens
development, they were concerned with the homogeneity of Perrys students who
were traditional college age, male, white, and middle class. When attempts to fit their
interviews with women into Perrys scheme left some of the womens responses
unaccounted for, they devised their own system to include concepts of voice, truth,
and knowledge (West, 2004). The most obvious difference is the inclusion of an
initial stage called silence where women felt disconnected from knowledge and
power; this stage is very rare in college students (Belenky et al., 1986).

The position called received knowledge is similar to Perrys dualism because
students believe all knowledge consists of absolute facts known by authorities. The
next position, subjective knowledge corresponds to Perrys multiplicity where
students elevate their own beliefs above authorities. In the next position of procedural
knowledge authorities have the procedures, but students can use these procedures to
come to their own conclusions. Lastly, in constructed knowing, students integrate
separate and connected ways of knowing (Belenky et al., 1986).
Baxter Magolda
In 1986 Baxter Magolda began a longitudinal study of intellectual
development of female and male college students to reveal gender similarities and
differences (West, 2004). The reasoning patterns each gender used were found to be
gender related, but not gender specific (West). According to Baxter Magolda (2000)
students involvement in learning experiences is affected by their patterns of knowing
and patterns of reasoning.
The four levels in Baxter Magoldas (2000) model also correspond to Perrys
(1970) levels, but incorporate reasoning skills with how knowledge is viewed.
Absolute knowing, the first level, is where knowledge is perceived to be certain. In
transitional knowing, only some knowledge is certain, and students use logic or
intuition for reasoning. With independent knowing, the third level, knowledge is
uncertain because all people have their own valid beliefs. Finally with contextual

knowing, knowledge depends on evaluation of evidence that is contextual to that
King and Kitchener
The critique that Perrys (1970) model describes intellectual development in
the early stages, but moral and identity development in the later stages led King and
Kitchener (1994) to develop their Reflective Judgment Model, which replaces ethical
commitments at higher levels by continuing with epistemological growth. They
studied how people think about ill-structured problems for which no distinct solution
exists (West, 2004).
The four levels of the King and Kitchener (1994) model have similarities to
the previous models discussed. In early prereflective thinking students knowledge is
perceived as absolute and certain because it comes directly from experience. The late
prereflective thinking level accounts for knowledge which is currently available, but
which authorities or experience will procure. With the third level, quasi-reflective
thinking, the notion that some knowledge might be uncertain emerges. The last level,
reflective thinking occurs when uncertainty overwhelms students; they believe it is
not possible to logically evaluate competing claims. In their research, King and
Kitchener (1981) found that most traditional age college students did not progress to
the final level.

These diverse researchers did not study intellectual development in the exact
same manner, yet show a strong correspondence in their models. These distinct
studies suggest that the phenomenon of intellectual development is robust (West,
2004). Table 1 provides a summary of stages from these four intellectual
development models. The table begins with the earlier phases at the top, and shows
how the four models generally coincide with each other.
Intellectual development encompasses the development of self, morals, ethics,
and knowledge (Perry, 1970). This broad field examines the progression humans
make as adults, and the life events that trigger or hinder development. Common to
these theories is the premise that progressing through the stages is not based on a
chronological age or a biological milestone. Therefore, adults at the same age or in
the same environment may not be at the same stage of intellectual development.
Intellectual development encompasses the development of self, morals, ethics,
and knowledge (Perry, 1970). This broad field examines the progression humans
make as adults, and the life events that trigger or hinder development. Common to
these theories is the premise that progressing through the stages is not based on a
chronological age or a biological milestone. Therefore, adults at the same age or in
the same environment may not be at the same stage of intellectual development.

Table 1
Summary of intellectual development models.
Perry (1970) Belenky et al. (1986) Baxter Magolda (2000) King & Kitchener (1981)
Silence: little awareness; believe only authorities know truth
Dualism: world viewed in absolute either-or terms; truth is assumed to be known; only two categories (right/wrong); thinking about options or multiple points of view is confusing Received knowing: truth is absolute, concrete, factual (right/wrong); learners receive knowledge from experts, not a source of learning themselves Absolute knowing: all knowledge is certain; either right or wrong Early prereflective thinking: knowledge absolute, from authorities
Multiplicity, more tolerance for diverse viewpoints, but some areas where authority has not found the answer yet; those with different beliefs no longer seen as wrong; Subjective knowing', look inside self for knowledge; truth comes from experience and intuition; all opinions equally valid; can hold contradictory beliefs Transitional knowing: authorities know what is certain; use logic or intuition Late prereflective thinking: uncertain about knowledge, centered on self
Relativism: knowledge is relative; uncertainty replaces absolutes; considers beliefs and judgments; differing viewpoints are not just tolerated, but seen as pieces of the whole Procedural knowing: evaluates different points of view; abstract and analytical; focus on proving, convincing; goal is to understand and be understood; is narrative and holistic Independent knowing: knowledge is uncertain; rely on critical thinking; all conclusions equally good if right procedures used Quasi-reflective thinking: domain specific, contextual; knowledge uncertain
Relativism in commitment: knowledge viewed in the same way, but students use critical reflection to choose their own beliefs; other perspectives have validity Constructed knowing: integration of knowledge from multiple sources; knowledge is contextual; emotion and intellect are unified; self and others discover/build knowledge Contextual knowing: all knowledge is contextual and socially constructed; all possible sources used as evidence Reflective thinking: constructed; based on interpretation of evidence; includes knowers beliefs

There are common developmental milestones that signify higher order
thinking. These include the ability to recognize and use ones own voice, the ability to
recognize multiple viewpoints, and the ability to critically reflect upon ones own
thought process (Belenky et al., 1986). These are just a few of the developmental
milestones that not all emerging adults will have attained when they transition from
high school to postsecondary education. Life during postsecondary education may
present more challenges, and is typically more volatile than the relatively safe nest of
high school. Emerging adults who have not yet developed to certain intellectual
stages may find it more difficult to advocate for themselves or question authority or
accept other people with diverse opinions.
The milestones met by emerging adults that can be most easily observed and
measured are more cultural than cognitive or intellectual (Arnett, 2000). Obtaining a
drivers license, purchasing liquor, or voting are some of the cultural milestones that
Americans associate with adulthood. These types of milestones do not address the
young adults ability to analyze knowledge or integrate multiple viewpoints. With
very young children, the milestones are mostly physical, such as sitting up, and
walking. With school age children, the milestones become more cognitive, such as
talking, writing the alphabet, performing addition, multiplication, or fractions.
However, with emerging adults, there is much more variance in the age when
intellectual milestones occur (Kegan, 1982).

Because intellectual milestones are more varied and difficult to observe than
physical milestones, high schools and postsecondary institutions do not have reliable
ways to assess adults intellectual development, much less create programs to
encourage development. Indeed, in some primitive cultures, reaching the physical
milestone of puberty means reaching adulthood. It seems hard to imagine a modem
culture that would have confidence in the maturity of someone who just entered
puberty to parent, work, engage in democratic affairs, or educate themselves.
Compounding the issue is the premise that it is very difficult to measure
intellectual development in adults (Kegan, 1982). It may not even be acceptable to
parents or students to assess or label an emerging adults moral or ethical
development. Moreover, it certainly is not appropriate to intentionally subject adults
to the types of life experiences that typically trigger progression in the stages, such as
loss, trauma, or self-reliance. Programs that have been created and implemented to
support the first year transition into college must successfully balance adult skill
development (e.g., balancing a checkbook or writing a resume) with encouraging
intellectual development (Hofer, 2001). As programs and policies are created and
implemented to support this transition period, incorporating intellectual development
concepts could impact the level of success. In other words, programs that only stress
funding or remedial skills for new college students may overlook essential factors
about their maturity level.

Transition Period
The transition out of high school is a time of upheaval, even for those young
adults who do not pursue higher education. For those who do enter postsecondary
education, the upheaval often leads to serious emotional, social, or academic
problems. These problems can include loneliness and homesickness (Fisher & Hood,
1988), a drop in academic performance (Levitz & Noel, 1989), or an increase in drug
and alcohol consumption (Sadava & Park, 1993). For too many students, difficulties
like these can lead to withdrawal from the school (Gerdes & Mallincrodt, 1994).
Statistics on university attrition in the United States do vary, but generally suggest
that 30 to 40 percent of students drop out without completing a degree (Levitz &
Noel, 1989).
The difficulty of the transition to postsecondary education is amplified by
students past experiences and their own expectations. Stem (1966) suggests that
most students approach the transition to college with an idealism that is naive,
enthusiastic, and boundless. Cook and Leckey (1999) point out that many students
have entered higher education without having taken responsibility for their own
learning, due in part to their previous educational experiences.
This transition into postsecondary education requires negotiation on the part
of the student (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Unfortunately, higher education
research on this transition is dominated by two specific foci: college entry and college

completion (Goldrick-Rab, Carter, & Wagner, 2007). One review of the literature on
this transition period suggests a need for an integrative model designed to cross
disciplines and address gaps in the knowledge (Louie, 2007). Indeed, the transition
from high school to college is only one transition this age group is making (Goldrick-
Rab et al., 2007).
The transition into postsecondary education is about more than just the
institutions and departments that govern them. It is also about the educational
development and academic achievement of students. The transitions these young
adults are immersed in include physical, cognitive, and intellectual transitions as well.
The people who make decisions about the education of much younger children
incorporate knowledge about the development, family life, and personalities of those
children. Similarly, anyone making decisions about the education of adults should be
well versed in the unique development of this stage of life.
Much has been written about how young adults in the general population
today face a much different future than their counterparts in the 1950s and 1960s
(Arnett, 2000; Goldscheider & Goldscheider, 1999; Settersten, Furstenberg &
Rumbaut, 2005). The general U. S. population at that time normally graduated high
school, got married, started a job, bought a home, and started a family, all within a
few short years (Arnett, 2000).

According to Arnett, who coined the term emerging adulthood for this phase
of life, some of the different life events that many young adults experience today
include taking a longer time to graduate from high school or college; traveling
without parents before college; waiting to get married; and changing jobs more
frequently. Arnett states that these trends occur across racial and cultural groups in
the United States. Furthermore, a much higher proportion of todays young adults rely
on their parents financially and emotionally long after their 18th birthday (Arnett,
2000). If young adults today are relying on their parents longer, entering the work
force later, and taking more time to become self sufficient, then families, educational
institutions, and the job market are all impacted. In the general population, research is
being conducted on how to support and motivate young adults as they take longer to
become independent.
The impact of a prolonged emerging adulthood on the general population is
significant, both for the young adults and for their parents (Arnett, 2000). It is not
unusual for young adults to rely on their family of origin for financial support,
housing, and guidance well into their 20s (Goldscheider & Goldscheider, 1999).
Even young adults who have been successful with academics, athletics, or
employment in their teenage years may struggle with these areas outside the structure
of the public school system and community.

Postsecondary Education
Any education program or degree beyond a high school diploma or general
equivalency diploma (GED) can be considered postsecondary education. In the job
market today, a college degree or finishing some level of postsecondary education is
nearly equivalent to having a high school diploma in 1940 (Davies, 2006). Just 50
years ago, when todays 65 year olds were in high school, only 34% of students
graduated from high school, and only 6% earned bachelors degrees (Hess, 2008).
Today, postsecondary education is no longer reserved for the few, and arguably is a
requirement for the majority. In 1959, only 20% of workers needed some
postsecondary education or training; by 2000, that figure had risen to 56% (Van de
Water & Rainwater, 2006).
Even those members of a community who do not have children in public
schools are at least aware of the importance of high school graduation rates in their
city or state. Certainly, measuring the number of young adults who complete this
milestone in American society is a valid barometer of the health of the local education
system. Few people would disagree that completing high school or at least an
equivalency diploma is critical to self-sufficiency in the work world.
However, more resources are focused on graduating students from high school
than on graduating adults from postsecondary education. Over 90% of high school
seniors in the U.S. plan to attend postsecondary'education, but only 70% actually do

so within two years of graduating (Venezia, Callan, Finney, Kirst, & Usdan, 2005).
The educational pipeline that runs from the start of high school through the
completion of college leaks considerably in every state and large numbers of students
drop out at key transition points along the way (Davies, 2006). Presented here are
some sobering statistics from a report prepared for the National Collaborative for
Higher Education Policy (Davies, 2006). Across the states, for every 100 students
who are in the ninth grade, less than half will enroll in college within four years and
only about one-fifth will earn a degree. The United States is now fifth internationally
in the percentage of 18 to 24 year olds enrolled in college. While the U. S. ranks
among top nations in the educational attainment of older adults (ages 35 to 64), it has
dropped to seventh in the educational attainment of younger adults (ages 25 to 34).
Nevertheless, the reality is that college enrollments are increasing in the
United States. Enrollments are expected to rise by 19% between 1995 and 2015, and
of this increase 80% will be minorities and 31% will be students age 35 and older
(Van de Water & Rainwater, 2006). Even as the education pipeline is arguably more
inclusive than it has ever been, marginalization and exclusion continue to exist
(Louie, 2007). According to Davies (2006), state systems of higher education are
generally more effective at retaining and graduating students from middle and upper
income families, but less effective with students from lower income families. If more
minority students, lower income students, and older adults are pursuing

postsecondary education and our systems are not designed to foster retaining and
graduating these students, there is a need to improve the transition to and completion
of higher education.
The emphasis on the improvement of the public K-12 educational system
could better prepare students to make the decision to go to college. However, this
does not directly address current problems in higher education. Those problems
include funding, recruitment and retention of students, and educational innovation to
compete in a global economy. Most of the state policies around higher education are
more focused on the management of the institutions as resources than on priorities
which focus on the diverse needs of students (Davies, 2006).
Institutions of higher education are being managed now as a growth industry,
with administrators applying tactics from for-profit industries (Pancer, Pratt,
Hunsberger, & Alisat, 2004), namely increasing the output of credentialed graduates.
Today, the typical university increases the student to staff ratio to meet budget
constraints (Scanlon, Rowling & Weber, 2007), acts primarily as an academic
research institution rather than a teaching institution (Perry & Allard, 2003), and is
dispersed geographically into multiple campuses (Bridges, 2000). More evaluation is
needed to understand the impact these trends have on a successful transition for first
year students. Institutions may be able to offer a wide range of options to students,

but they assume the students know how to make plans that will lead to a successful
outcome and self-advocate (Person, Rosenbaum, & Deil-Amen, 2007).
The human, economic, and social resources invested in the transition to
postsecondary education is enormous in terms of individual, community, and
institutional capital (Trent, Orr, Ranis, & Holdaway, 2007). Yet degree completion
lags; approximately 25% of first year students in higher education do not stay for
their second year (Venezia et al., 2005). Trent et al. (2007) have three foundational
propositions regarding higher education: (a) higher education is critical for improving
social, economic, and political welfare, (b) higher education is not serving large
segments of American students, and (c) research can identify problems, solutions and
conditions where progress can be made to increase access and degree completion.
P20 Education
In response to concerns about lower rates of postsecondary participation,
especially among low-income and marginalized groups, researchers have recently
begun discussing the concept of P20, which incorporates the alignment of Pre-school,
K.-12 systems, and higher education, focusing on the transition points between grade
level and institutions (Hodgkinson, 1999; Kirst, 1998; Kirst & Venezia, 2001).
There is a disconnect between K-12 standards and assessments and the
requirements of higher education or the workforce. As a result, young adults have
trouble understanding the various expectations of these systems. Despite this, colleges

and universities have little incentive to collaborate with K-12 schools (Goldrick-Rab
et al., 2007), hence, the need to integrate research, policy, and practice between K-12
schooling and higher education (Gandara, 2002).
Over 30 states have implemented strategies to improve the transition to higher
education under the umbrella of P20 education (Chamberlin & Plucker, 2008). There
is a special focus on how the various levels overlap and interact, but the overall goals
include raising academic standards, conducting appropriate assessments, and
improving teacher quality (Van de Water & Rainwater, 2006).
Creating a more integrated education system involves tackling many issues,
including establishing standards, testing, teacher education, college admissions
policies, governance, funding, and institutional authority. In order to facilitate system
wide change, some states have developed councils to manage these various policy
issues. There are now 40 such councils nationwide (Cech, 2008). No two councils are
alike, and there is not even a common language between them (Van de Water &
Rainwater, 2006). A valid concern is that these councils may not represent a real
solution, but are merely another committee generating paper.
One of the primary criticisms of P20 systems is that not enough focus has
been placed on the transition from high school to postsecondary education (Cech,
2008). Critics worry that more time and money has been focused on the preschool
through 3rd grade portion of P20 initiatives. Perhaps this is a function of the newness

of P20 systems; perhaps it is related to building upon the pieces that are already more
developed within states. However, channeling P20 efforts towards the transition to
higher education is not simply about allocating more funds. Developing innovative
programs, creating inclusive policies, and sharing of successful outcomes are
required. Researching and assessing the transition as students approach the end of
high school and begin higher education should uncover programmatic issues as well
as funding needs (Hofer, 2001).
Even though P20 initiatives are relatively new, the approach could prove to be
beneficial for students transitioning at all levels, especially from high school to higher
education. In the past, K-12 systems and higher education systems were created in
isolation (Venezia et al., 2005); now these P20 initiatives incorporate the entire life
cycle of education, focusing on the transition points.
Existing Transition Programs
Because the transition to higher education is difficult for most students, it is
common for institutions to offer programs to assist students in the adjustment process
(Braxton & McClendon, 2002). Until recently, many institutions have tended to
blame students for their academic failure, rather than the policies or structures in the
institution (Gelber, 2007). Research has shown that retention of postsecondary
students depends not only on academic preparation and predictive measures, but also

on how the institutions accommodate and support new students making the transition
(Koyama, 2007).
A variety of transition programs exist across colleges and universities. The
question is not which of these programs produces better outcomes, because all have
the potential to improve student retention. The three major types of programs
described here are (a) remedial learning, (b) credit based courses or dual enrollment,
and (c) life learning programs.
Remedial learning, otherwise known as developmental education, is the most
common type of program to assist with the transition to higher education. Remedial
learning is defined as a class or activity to meet the needs of students who do not yet
have the skills, experience, or orientation needed to perform at the level recognized as
normal for their peers (Perin, 2006). Many colleges have invested heavily in
remedial education as a means to increase the pool of students (Gelber, 2007),
because a large number of students lack the literacy and mathematical skills needed to
learn at the postsecondary level (Spann, 2000).
All publicly funded community colleges offer remedial education programs
(Perin, 2006), and at least half of community college students need such courses
(Jenkins & Boswell, 2002). These programs typically provide reading, writing, and
math courses, but some also offer tutoring or counseling (Casazza, 1999). In fact,
considerable variation exists in remedial programs, particularly in assessing the needs

of students, and offering additional services to prepare students for the postsecondary
experience (Perin, 2006). While is seems like remedial courses are strictly skill-based,
many programs may already utilize intellectual development concepts, or could easily
integrate them, improving the chances that students will develop more than just math
or reading skills.
The second type of transition program is credit based or dual enrollment.
These programs allow high school students to take college-level courses and earn
credit while still in high school (Karp & Hughes, 2008). In 2003, 87% of public high
schools offered at least one credit-based transition program (Waits, Setzer & Lewis,
2005). Dual enrollment programs can help students transition to higher education by
acquiring the academic skills needed, thereby reducing the need for remedial work
(Venezia, Kirst & Antonio, 2003). Programs like these sometimes are enhanced to
add support services to address the social and personal preparation necessary for
college success (Karp & Hughes, 2008). These enhanced services may be providing
intellectual development opportunities for students.
The third group of programs, life learning programs, is not strictly academic,
and tends to occur on college campuses. Life learning programs incorporate social
skills, relationship building, and social activity, along with providing resources for
academic success (Inkelas, Daver, Vogt & Leonard, 2007). Life learning programs
also help students develop expectations about university living, develop strategies for

dealing with difficulties, and give them a sense of belonging by hearing others
concerns (Pancer et al., 2004). While these programs appear to more overtly utilize
intellectual development techniques, they tend to only be offered in residential
campus settings, and participants do not always recognize the benefits until time has
passed (Inkelas et al., 2007). In assessing if intellectual development occurs in these
life learning programs, it would be crucial to closely examine the social components,
to be sure they support intellectual development and are not merely recreational.

Research Design and Rationale
The method used for this study is a comparative case study (Stake, 1995; Yin,
1989). As Yin (1989) notes, case studies are helpful approaches to research projects
that study exploratory and/or descriptive questions in a real-life context. Case studies
typically make use of multiple sources of evidence. This study combined observations
of classes, pedagogical artifacts, and interviews with students, faculty, and
administrators in order to provide multiple sources of evidence and contribute to
triangulation (Denzin, 1989; Fielding & Fielding, 1986). This method is utilized in
order to collect qualitative descriptions of diverse programs using multiple sources
and to improve the chances of capturing more contextual data than quantitative data
would show. An important aspect of the case study design is in determining the
central focus of analysis. This particular case study is a comparative case study (Yin,
1989) which applies the same evaluation to multiple cases for purposes of exploration
and qualitative description.
This comparative case study describes each transition program examined,
including mission and goals, services provided, funding, clients served, materials
utilized and instruction provided; in other words, a summary of the program. After
summarizing each transition program, the programs are examined for aspects of

intellectual development. This study did not conduct assessments of individual
students to see if measurable intellectual development occurred. Instead, the three
aspects examined for intellectual development principles are (a) awareness of selected
faculty and implementation of intellectual development concepts, (b) the curriculum
methods used and how they promote intellectual development, and (c) how selected
students interpret the faculty efforts and curriculum methods used.
Participants and Site
Programs designed to assist high school graduates or GED recipients to
transition to postsecondary education were eligible to participate in this case study.
The sampling method for selecting the programs was purposive sampling. Within the
metropolitan area of Denver, Colorado, nine existing programs designed for new
postsecondary students were contacted for possible selection. Four of these were
community colleges, three were traditional public universities, and two were private
universities. Two of the nine contacted never responded, three expressed interest in
participating but failed to complete the approval letter, and two sites declined to
participate due to timing. The remaining two sites studied are both community
colleges within the Colorado Community College System. Both of these sites were
screened for length of program existence, sufficient number of students and faculty,
and length of time to complete the program.

Individual participants were contacted to be interviewed. The two sites will be
referred to as South and North to protect confidentiality. At the South site, three
administrators were contacted and all participated; five faculty were contacted and
four participated; and four students were contacted, but only two participated. At the
North site, two administrators were contacted but only one participated; three faculty
were contacted and two participated; and eight students were contacted, with six
South is a community college in a suburban area of Denver that enrolled 9,058
students in academic year 2008 2009. For that same academic year, 1,184 or 13% of
students at South were first time college students. North is also a community college
in a suburban area of Denver which enrolled 12, 854 students in academic year 2008
- 2009, with 1,765, or 14% of those students being in their first year of college. At
South, 63% of students in the 2008 2009 academic year required remedial courses,
while at North 58% of that years students required remedial classes. Both sites are
part of the statewide community college system which enrolled 117,245 students in
academic year 2008 2009 in 13 community colleges located across the state.
The sampling method for individual interview participants at each site was a
snowball method. The initial contact was with administrators of each program, using
the interview questions found in Appendix A. Those administrators were then asked
to provide pedagogical artifacts and identify faculty members who were eligible to

participate in further interviews. Initial contact with program faculty was an email
explaining the study and confirming the approval by their site to participate. Faculty
or instructors for the program were interviewed using a separate list of questions in
Appendix A. Faculty were also asked to confirm artifacts provided by administrators
and/or provide any additional artifacts used in the program. After the administrator
and faculty interviews, observation of class sessions occurred to identify and confirm
curriculum methods used. Administrators and faculty were asked to identify students
who were in the course or recently attended the course and eligible to participate in
interviews. Initial contact with students was an email or face to face contact in the
classroom explaining the study and confirming the approval by their site to
participate. Students were interviewed using a separate list of questions in Appendix
A. Within each site, students, instructors, program administrators or any other
stakeholders were eligible to participate in the interview process, on a voluntary basis.
All interview participants were given a written consent form as shown in
Appendix C, explaining the study and their rights. All participants signed the consent
form and were told at the start of each interview that their answers were confidential,
they could decline to answer any or all questions, and that the interview was being
recorded. There was no compensation for individual participants who completed

A total of eight students completed interviews for this study. Only 25% of the
students interviewed were female, even though both programs had about an even split
for gender. Several more female students were contacted, but declined to participate.
All of the male students contacted agreed to be interviewed. The age range of
students interviewed at both programs was 18 and right out of high school, to students
well into their 50s, which was representative of the age range of all students in the
program. Students ethnicity was not specifically requested. Due to the answers
provided, it was evident that some students were also working full time and/or raising
A total of four administrators were interviewed from the programs. All four
had been working with the transition programs since their inception. A total of six
faculty were interviewed, all of whom had taught in the transition program for at least
two semesters and could provide some comparisons.
Class observation was not possible at South due to the timing of the study.
The classroom portion of their program only lasts five weeks, and had finished by the
time this study began. However, the majority of the program is conducted online, and
full access was provided to observe the online experience from a students point of
view. Class observation at North included full class periods for two of the three
sections offered. Curriculum materials, syllabi, text books, lesson plans, course

evaluation forms, grading rubrics, admission criteria, program requirements, and
sample student assignments were provided by both sites for assessment.
Data Collection
Evaluation of program artifacts included curricula, materials, forms, and
performance statistics. Observations of program sessions focused on interaction,
curriculum methods, and student response. Observations were recorded as running
field notes.
The interview questions listed in the appendices were developed to address
the overall research questions of this study. Those interviews were transcribed and
reviewed using criteria defined to foster intellectual development principles.
Transcribed interviews were sent to individual participants for the opportunity to
correct any errors. Questions answered in interviews were compared across
administrators, faculty, and students for consistency and triangulation.
Documenting faculty awareness and training around intellectual development
required interviews and reviewing artifacts of the program. Similarly, documenting
students interpretation of the faculty and the curriculum also required interviews and
reviewing artifacts of the program. However, listing and labeling the curriculum used
was more exploratory, and based on a comparison to Table 2. Programs provided
details on the curriculum selected, but observation and review determined if the

curriculum is designed to foster intellectual development, or could do so with minor
To facilitate this process, a framework was created and an initial list of
curriculum options has been compiled from various recent studies of intellectual
development in students (Kloss, 1994; Clouder, 1998; Wilson, 2000; Hofer, 2001;
Felder & Brent, 2004; Evenbeck & Hamilton, 2006). This framework was utilized
during classroom observations. The framework divides possible curriculum methods
into three categories, and some methods overlap or encourage more than one
category. The three categories are (a) self advocacy, (b) critical reflection, and (c)
recognition of multiple viewpoints. These three categories were chosen because
Perrys (1970) initial model of intellectual development, and the major subsequent
models of Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule (1986), King and Kitchener
(1994) and Baxter Magolda (2000) all incorporate these three aspects, especially for
the age group of emerging adults.
Self advocacy encompasses students finding and using their own voice,
exploring choices and options, using assessments to understand their own beliefs, and
showing resiliency when faced with challenges (Belenky et al., 1986; Baxter
Magolda, 2000). Critical reflection pertains to the ability and willingness of students
to examine and question their own values along with the authority of others (King &
Kitchener, 1994). Recognizing multiple viewpoints is an aspect of intellectual

development that relates to understanding diversity and the contextual nature of
knowledge, along with acknowledging that more that one truth is possible (Perry,
The curriculum methods listed below in Table 2 also show which of these
three categories they support; note that some methods can support more than one.
These curriculum methods have been shown to promote intellectual development in
previous studies, and were inventoried for the programs in this study. Conversely, if
other curriculum methods were observed in programs which do not directly promote
intellectual development, such as remedial methods, suggestions were made on how
to modify those methods to improve the chances they could promote intellectual
These curriculum methods have been shown to promote intellectual
development in previous studies, and were inventoried for the programs in this study.
Conversely, if other curriculum methods were observed in programs which do not
directly promote intellectual development, such as remedial methods, suggestions
were made on how to modify those methods to improve the chances they could
promote intellectual development.

Table 2
Summary of curriculum methods and categories supported.
Curriculum Method Category Supported Primary Source
1. Student planning of educational experiences Self advocacy Felder & Brent, 2004
2. Modeling, practice, and constructive feedback of higher order tasks Critical Reflection Hofer, 2001
3. Making intellectual development explicit in the program Critical reflection Clouder, 1998
4. Using inductive reasoning, creativity, or analysis to solve problems Critical reflection Wilson, 2000
5. Active and cooperative learning or group projects Critical reflection Felder & Brent, 2004
6. Discussion of controversial issues Recognizing multiple viewpoints Hofer, 2001
7. Exposure to cultural diversity Recognizing multiple viewpoints Hofer, 2001
8. Student self assessments Self advocacy; Critical reflection Felder & Brent, 2004
9. Variety and choice of learning tasks Self advocacy; Recognizing multiple viewpoints Felder & Brent, 2004
10. Respect for students at all levels of development Self advocacy; Recognizing multiple viewpoints Felder Brent, 2004
11. Research and internships Self advocacy; Recognizing multiple viewpoints Evenbeck & Hamilton, 2006
12. Exposure to ambiguous problems Critical reflection; Recognizing multiple viewpoints Kloss, 1994
13. Study abroad Self advocacy; Critical reflection; Recognizing multiple viewpoints Evenbeck & Hamilton, 2006

The focus of this comparative case study was to determine if and how
principles of intellectual development are incorporated. The evaluation consisted of
determining if elements of the program provide opportunities to foster recognition of
multiple viewpoints, promote self-advocacy, or teach critical reflection. Whether or
not the individual students fully achieve any or all of these milestones was not
measured in this study.
Data Analysis
The data collected from each transition program were combined into
individual case studies using the same format for ease of comparison. A summary of
each programs mission, goals, and operation is provided. The interviews and artifacts
reviewed for faculty training and awareness of intellectual development were
analyzed to show where opportunities for faculty training occur. The observations and
review of artifacts for curriculum methods were analyzed against the framework
described earlier of curriculum methods which have been shown to promote
intellectual development. For the interviews and artifacts reviewed of student
interpretations of the program, the analysis focused on student reaction to faculty and
curriculum, and student awareness of intellectual development.
Analysis of these elements was completed to describe overall how each
program is aware of and/or promotes intellectual development. By exploring and

describing each program, the findings provide recommendations for modifications to
current curriculum methods or implementation of entirely new methods in order to
promote intellectual development during the course of the transition program.

The findings from the interviews, class observations, and materials assessment
are presented in four parts, corresponding to the four research questions. First, a
summary of both programs, including mission and goals, services provided, funding,
clients served, and overall perception. Second, an assessment of the curriculum
methods used, including the materials utilized and instruction is covered. Third, an
evaluation is supplied of the facultys awareness of intellectual development, their
experience with the program and students, and their approach to the program. Lastly,
a summary of how students interpret faculty efforts, curriculum methods, and
program elements is compiled; how students describe their growth in the programs is
also examined.
These results are not intended to be a thorough deconstruction of each
program but description and assessment of the program based on the faculty, students,
and curriculum observed in this time frame. The findings provide a platform for even
deeper evaluation, by the programs directly, or by other researchers. The findings
lead to recommendations which could be utilized by first year transition programs at a
variety of postsecondary institutions, based on issues these two programs are
excelling with, and issues these two programs may be struggling with.

Program Level
Each program is described separately in order to showcase their differences
and similarities. However, when the faculty and student interviews are presented
later, some findings are combined because they are more generalizable to first year
transition programs.
The first year transition program at South comprises three parts. One, a single
session campus orientation which is open to any student is required for the students in
the transition program. Second, students are required to enroll in an academic
achievement course based on their test scores for placement in reading, writing and
math skills. Third, students are required to participate in a mentoring program with
tutoring and counseling available. The mentor is an employee at the site and meets
with each student individually to track their progress during the semester.
The first year transition program at South began in 2006 from the student
services side of the college, not the instructional side, when the advising department
recognized a need to have what one faculty called an introduction to college course.
One administrator commented that this was when many of the other community
colleges were creating similar programs. Another administrator with the program
believes that one driving force behind the start of the program was realizing that a
lot of our students were not succeeding because they started so slowly. These

students were still learning how to be college students but their instructors expected
them to already have that knowledge and be focused on the content and processes of
the course material. The mission of the program has two goals. One goal is for
students to form a student identity, and the other goal is to orient them to higher
education, including the jargon, services, expectations, study skills, and navigating
the school.
With the addition of the individual mentoring component in 2008, the overall
mission of the program expanded to include showing students what the end looks
like, according to one administrator. The individual mentoring program does focus
on student retention at the community college and students transfer to a bachelors
program. The impetus for this component of the program was a large donation to the
school that required building a support system for the first generation, first year
Students receive a scholarship in exchange for participating fully in the
program. Participation includes the academic achievement course, meeting with the
mentor at least five times a semester, utilizing tutoring services, and informing their
other class instructors of their placement in this program. Instructors from their other
classes are then required to provide progress reports back to the transition programs
mentor. The mentor with this component states that the four year school transfer can
be a hurdle. I help them open the door. One administrator for the course states that

while first generation students are targeted, the returning student who is looking for
a way to kind of dip their toe into the water a little bit is a good candidate for the
transition program as well because theyre nervous about their ability to sit down in
what they would probably call a regular college class and know what is expected of
While the program focuses on the transition to college, other services are
offered, primarily as referrals through the mentoring component. Students are
informed about services on the campus, such as counseling, financial aid, and
tutoring, along with services in the community such as child care, rent assistance, and
job placement. As the mentor described, many of these students have personal and
family issues that impact their ability to focus on college, from drug abuse or gang
activity, to parenting small children or family pressure to drop out of school. Sessions
with the mentor frequently evolve into very emotional conversations. As the mentor
reveals, I can almost sense when that student is going to come in next time and break
As for data collection at South, the administrators agree that little direction
has been provided on what data points to collect about the program or the students.
The mentor in that portion of the program openly states that nobodys told me what
data to collect, even though the scholarship money comes from a large donation.
This person has taken the initiative to collect data on the students in the program as it

relates to retention, in hopes that will secure continued support of the program. The
administrator for the academic portion of the program admits to just starting to
identify the data that I want to collect. Their initial interest is in comparing students
who complete this program with similar students who do not participate, in relation to
their performance in other college courses.
The first year transition program at North began with grant funding, but when
the grant funding ended in 2008, the college decided to continue the program with
general funds. Students do not have to pay tuition, but they are able to complete their
GED or high school equivalency while earning one college credit. The plan is that the
program will evolve into a seven credit course to qualify for financial aid and
generate tuition. Students who have taken placement tests and show a need for three
or more developmental courses are eligible for the program.
Students in the program spend four to five hours each day in the courses for a
period of twelve weeks. The courses include sections of reading, writing, and math,
all at the developmental, or remedial, education level. Students are not required to
participate in individual mentoring, but the program has an assigned navigator who
works with the students as needed. Students are required to participate in tutoring
services, which are located in the campus library, where the navigators office is also
located. The navigator helps students with administrative paperwork, finding

resources, and attendance issues. The current navigator views her role as a student
advocate; helping students find an answer initially, but then prompting students to
find their own answers as time passes.
The program at North also offers referrals to services outside of the campus,
in the community. These include mental health counseling, county workforce
services, literacy tutoring, and public assistance funds. The navigator with the
program collects data on all of the students, and has three years worth of student data
for analysis, because of the grant funding that initiated the program. Data collected on
students in the program is primarily demographic, such as age, gender and ethnicity,
along with data from their high school performance and test scores. These data
elements can be linked to data the school collects if students choose to continue at the
same site.
Curriculum Level
The curriculum at South is built into a hybrid model, combining online tools
with classroom instruction. The course last five weeks, and each week has a core
topic. Week one is orientation to college terminology, the online software toolkit
utilized, and a scavenger hunt online. Week two covers academic success strategies,
including a guest speaker from the resource library, and online assessments of study
skills and stress management. The third week focuses on budgets, financial aid, and

scholarships. The online assessments for week three include job interests and
personality profiling. Week four covers college transfer and degree planning, with
guest speakers on career counseling and an online assessment about locus of control.
The fifth and final week wraps up with stress management again and reflective
This curriculum was developed by one of the current instructors who states
that she would prefer to return the class to a three credit format in order to include
material on life long learning, emotional intelligence, motivation, and accepting
personal responsibility. All of these elements would address intellectual development
if they were incorporated. One of the administrators in the program is currently
reviewing newer text books on first year student transition and states that I think this
is a type of program that is really starting to grow a little bit more, so the publishers
are starting to pick up on that. Nonetheless, this administrator is cautious about
changing the text book due to costs passed on to beginning students.
Even though observation of the five classroom sessions did not occur because
they were over by the time of this study, the syllabus, class materials, online toolkit,
faculty interviews and student interviews were analyzed for the inventory of the
thirteen curriculum methods in Table 2 which have been found to promote intellectual
development. Within the course itself, there is minimal student planning of
educational experiences. Students are not given options or choices on the

assignments, or involved in developing the lessons. However, there is a class session
devoted to degree planning, so students are practicing self advocacy in terms of their
overall educational goal.
The next four curriculum methods in Table 2 all focus on critical reflection. In
this course, some modeling and practice of higher order tasks occurs in the classroom
sessions around reading assignments. As for making intellectual development explicit
in the program, this is not done. It is not included in the text or materials and the
administrators and faculty admit to a lack of knowledge on their part to the elements
of intellectual development. Cooperative learning or group projects are not
incorporated into the current curriculum structure. Inductive reasoning or problem
analysis occurs when the students complete several of the online assessments which
do not have a singular correct answer.
These self assessments also promote self advocacy, as shown in item eight of
Table 2. The amount and variety of the online self assessments available is an asset to
this program, even for students who might never finish a degree. However, exposure
to ambiguous problems is lacking in the curriculum; this method promotes critical
reflection and recognition of multiple viewpoints, along with being very applicable to
future work situations for students.
As for the curriculum methods which promote recognition of multiple
viewpoints, neither study abroad nor research internships occur in this program due to

limited resources.-Discussion of controversial issues is not intentionally part of the
program; one faculty admits that with so much to cover in just five weeks, open
ended discussion is too time consuming. Exposure to cultural diversity is not
intentionally built into the curriculum. Faculty rely on the mix of students being
diverse, and occasionally encourage students to seek out experiences on campus for
exposure to other cultural viewpoints. The faculty member who created the program
expressed a desire to re-introduce cultural discussions, and one administrator openly
wished for money in the budget to take students on field trips to cultural events off
The curriculum for the program at North is all classroom based; there is no
online component. Students attend class as a cohort four days a week, beginning the
day with writing, then reading, and ending with math. In between class sessions, open
time is scheduled for tutoring, which is available in the resource library for
individuals, or in a classroom setting for group review. For this study, observation
occurred during one reading class and one math class. The observations from those
class periods were analyzed along with class materials, faculty interviews, and
student interviews.
The same curriculum has been used since the program began, with revisions
made by individual faculty. There are four instructors who collaborate together to

integrate the curriculum. The tutors available for students sometimes include the
instructors, but also include temporary tutors who fluctuate in their involvement. One
instructor did state that the lack of time to develop new curriculum or even to cover
more material in class is his primary concern, expressing that it is hard for me to
squeeze in what needs to be taught, it seems cramped. This same instructor also
expressed a desire to consider the academic schedule, as students who take this
transition course in the spring semester have a long lag over the summer break, and
he has witnessed drop off in attendance and skill attainment.
During observation of the reading class session, the focus was on looking for
any of the thirteen curriculum methods in Table 2 which promote intellectual
development, student engagement and faculty responsiveness. The curriculum
method of practicing higher order tasks was the first observed in the reading course,
as students reviewed their homework assignments out loud. The assignment was for
students to read the beginning of a literature piece provided, and then write their own
Having students read their assignments out loud also promotes self advocacy
for those students who express their voice; however, the male students dominated the
class discussion, and the female students were much less willing to read their
assignments out loud. One female student who did read her assignment out loud after
being called upon even composed her story ending around the lead female character

having a stroke and being unable to speak, which seemed suggestive of a student
looking for her own voice. As the students continued to read their written endings, it
was remarkable how advanced the language usage seemed to this observer, given that
these students are placed in developmental education. The language usage seemed
similar to bachelor level students, not first year college students; correct grammar was
used, vocabulary level was fairly high, and sentence structure was advanced.
The class began with this activity of student contribution, which kept most
students engaged, and even included some discussion of controversial issues, such as
domestic violence, conflict resolution, and human rights. This is one of the methods
from Table 2 that promotes recognition of multiple viewpoints. The next task was
lecture based review of reading concepts, and student engagement dropped
dramatically. The instructor had to remind the students to be taking notes, and to
cease in side conversations. Nonetheless, there were frequent personal comments
amongst students about drinking, drug usage, and romantic relationships, not
pertaining to the class material.
The next class activity incorporated several of the curriculum methods which
foster intellectual development. The activity was to work as groups to evaluate a set
of sentences written on separate index cards, looking for expression of generic to
specific topics in a paragraph. This cooperative learning showed students using
creativity and analysis to solve ambiguous problems, all of which promote critical

reflection. The class session ended with discussion about the homework assignment.
Students were given a choice from a variety of assignments for the following day,
which is a curriculum method that promotes self advocacy.
The next class session observed was the math class on the same day with the
same cohort. The students as a group appeared to be less energetic at the end of
several hours in previous classes, students moved slower, were more distracted, and
contributed less. The classroom itself was a portable classroom some distance from
the building. The seating consisted of long narrow tables with computers at every
seat, even though the students do not use computers for this math course. Two of the
younger male students remained standing during the class session in the back rather
than sit at tables. The instructor did not address this, and it was unclear why the
students were allowed to remain separate from the class.
The instructor began the session by explaining how he would be coordinating
with the tutors to be sure they covered the same topics during the group tutoring
session that he is covering in that days math class. He explained that this change
came as a response to students feedback, which demonstrated using the curriculum
method of student planning into the educational experience; this promotes self
As the instructor began lecture and review of math topics, overall student
engagement was lower, partially hampered by the environment, as many students

could not see the board where the instructor was writing up front. There were two
students actively texting on their phones throughout the class, along with a handful of
students having side conversations about television shows and drug usage. Only a few
students were taking notes while the instructor lectured, despite his reminders that
they need to take notes.
When the instructor struggled with explaining prime factors to the students, he
asked for their feedback: did they prefer how he taught it the day before, or the
method he was using now? This showed the curriculum methods from Table 2 of
choice of learning tasks and student planning, both of which foster self advocacy. The
instructor also modeled how students should document problem solving on the next
math test, which is a curriculum method that promotes critical reflection for the
students on how they performed the previous time.
The instructor relied on lecture consisting of him taking considerable time to
write out math topics on the board and then asking the class if they were ok, but not
watching for their reaction. It may be more helpful for the instructor to have students
individually respond when they have grasped the concepts, even if just by show of
hands. In the faculty interview, this instructor admitted to limited knowledge about
intellectual development and a desire to learn about how to incorporate those
elements, especially with this population of remedial learners. He also expressed
some doubt if intellectual development could be promoted after a certain age, or with

a concrete topic such as math. Even though the instructor confessed to little expertise
in adult education methodology, it was clear during the class session that he was
comfortable with this population of students and establishing personal rapport,
discipline, and expectations with the students.
While the majority of curriculum methods from Table 2 are evident at North,
there appear to be a few lacking in the program, after evaluating the classroom
observations, along with the faculty and student interviews. Intellectual development
is not made explicit in the program, and the administrators and instructors
interviewed either admitted to lack of knowledge about intellectual development or
confused this with cognitive development, when asked. Teaching study skills, note
taking, or other cognitive abilities such as grammar and math rules is not the same as
intellectual development.
The program at North is also lacking somewhat in the curriculum method of
self assessments, in terms of planned effort for students to complete established self
assessment tools and review the results. One other curriculum method from Table 2
that was not evident at North was intentional exposure to cultural diversity. As at
South, instructors rely upon the naturally occurring diversity of the students in the
class to offer learning opportunities about the viewpoints of other cultures. Lastly,
study abroad and research internships are not part of the program at North due to
limited resources.

Faculty Interviews
In addition to questions about the program and the curriculum, faculty were
also asked specifically about their experience teaching, their knowledge of
intellectual development and how it is incorporated into the first year transition
program. The findings reveal strengths these instructors bring to the program and
opportunities to provide training to faculty in order to better promote intellectual
development in these first year students.
At South, the interviews with administrators and faculty show that instructors
are chosen for the first year program more on a basis of availability or previous
experience with developmental education. Each expressed a desire to have more
training about first year students, intellectual development, and transition
programming. The only specific training the instructors received to teach these
courses was for the online toolkit software used in the hybrid class. One instructor
was involved in the creation of the course, but even she expressed a need to research
new curriculum and data collected on transitioning students.
The first question in the interviews that was not a general question about the
program or their training was does this program seek to promote intellectual
development? Instructors had some initial confusion with this question; one said
not necessarily, another stated thats really difficult for me to answer because

really what this course was set up to do was to work with the soft skills. Every
instructor either answered that perhaps the course is not intended to promote
intellectual development, or if they stated that it was promoting intellectual
development, the examples they gave were in fact of cognitive or emotional
development, or simply study skills.
However, when asked the next series of questions about how the program
promotes self advocacy, critical reflection, and/or recognition of multiple viewpoints,
instructors were better able to give detailed answers. This suggests that instructors
may not be aware that these three elements are part of intellectual development, and
their connotation of intellectual development may be limited by their lack of exposure
to the topic.
When asked about how the program promotes self advocacy, all the
instructors readily had examples. One mentioned the series of self assessment tools in
the online component, stating our purpose for doing those is so the students begin to
realize they dont all learn the same way, and thats something they need to know
about themselves. One instructor even described drilling this into the students, in
order for them to find those resources they have to stand up for themselves and ask,
where do I find.. .how do I do this? This same instructor used an analogy of students
as ghosts:

At a community college, when youre at a commuter campus, if you
dont get involved and connected, you can kind of float in here, sit
down on a chair and float right back out without anybody noticing
youre here. So you have to use the voice you have to search out
resources or youre going to blow out the door.
Other instructors discussed students practicing self advocacy with teachers,
one stated he wants students to know expectations they should have of
teachers. Another said when they say they cant understand the teacher, the
student needs to figure it out and that person is the expert in this field.
Instructors balance challenging students to self advocate with supporting and
reassuring students as well. One instructor tells students they dont have to
get it all at once. This instructor explains that the transition program deals
with the emotional side of being in school.
As for critical reflection, when asked, instructors at South described
examples of students critically reflecting on their own choices and behaviors
more than reflection of course content or new ideas. One instructor describing
teaching students how do I adjust as opposed to how do I continue on?
Another instructor described telling students to think about what youve been
doing and which things were helpful. As described in the review of
curriculum methods above, critical reflection of content and knowledge is

being promoted at South in the course, but perhaps instructors more easily
think of examples of students reflecting on their own choices.
When asked how the transition program promotes recognition of
multiple viewpoints, instructors replied by describing cultural diversity tasks
instead of fully understanding multiple viewpoints as they relate to intellectual
development. In terms of intellectual development, adults progress when they
are able to accept and understand multiple viewpoints, or multiple truths, in
the creation of knowledge. There is no one right authority, and all adults have
a context for their knowledge. Yes, sometimes that context includes an adults
culture or ethnicity, but it also includes their education, maturity, family
background, belief systems, and experiences.
One instructor at South described this as his only complaint, that when
the class size is small, there is very little interaction between students to
promote diversity. Instructors at South seem to rely on the naturally occurring
diversity of students in the class to expose students to other viewpoints, but
intentional curriculum about the contextual nature of knowledge and how
adults create truth is a valid method that does not rely on the mix of students
Perhaps the most revealing questions for the administrators and faculty
were the pair of questions, In what ways does this program help students

complete their degree at this site? and in what ways does this program help
those students who do not complete a degree? Faculty and administrators
were very quick to describe study skills, note taking, mentoring, degree
planning, finding resources, and college orientation as elements of the
program that help students complete their degree.
When asked how does this program help students who do not complete
a degree, all but one interviewee paused or looked confused. For one
administrator, after I explained the question further by giving examples of
things they might learn which help students with their families, friends or
employers, he expressed relief and pride with all the mentoring and support
the students receive. He even stated that to complete their degree is the
wrong way to measure success in the transition program, describing how
students have grown as adults, found their voice, reflected on choices and
made sense of other peoples truth. One instructor explained when describing
how much the program pushes students to make progress on degree
completion, we go overboard on the cheerleading part. I know they cringe.
Similar to South, the interviews with administrators and faculty at North show
that faculty have been chosen for the first year transition program based on their
subject matter experience with teaching reading, writing, or math, and not necessarily

because of expertise with first year students or adult development. When faculty were
interviewed and observed in class, they were not always aware when they were
actually promoting intellectual development, or how they could make slight
adjustments to activities to take them from remedial study habits to higher order
When first asked how does the program promote intellectual development,
one instructor remarked Im not sure that its the function of the program. This
instructor went on to express doubt about adults being able to develop intellectually:
I think when youre dealing with folks at postsecondary education age
looking to rejoin the workforce or further their education, having not
been in the work force or educational environment, in some cases, for
decades, having been in corrections situations, having emotional,
psychological, what have you, disadvantages; you might have missed
the boat on that. I mean frankly, from my experience, you know, some
of that is developed at a very early age. Some of it is pure nature
versus nurture, so there are principles that could benefit this program. I
dont see them currently.
When asked how the program promotes intellectual development, another
instructor replied by describing how the program promotes study skills, note
taking, and prepares students to re-take college placement tests.

Even though class observation revealed curriculum methods that foster
self advocacy in the program at North, one instructor flatly replied that the
program is not focused on teaching self reliance. However, another instructor
recognized that the program helps students build confidence, build self
esteem, prepares them better to approach various authority figures.
As for promoting critical reflection, again instructors seem limited by
their own lack of knowledge about this terminology and how it fosters
intellectual development, because they did not report specific examples, when
interviewed. However, direct observation of the class sessions revealed
curriculum methods which did promote critical reflection to actively occur
with students in the class period. One instructor described his doubts that the
students are learning critical reflection in this program because:
These are folks who wont even read directions. You can tell them
seven times to read the directions, and they wont even read the
directions. They just wont or they dont understand it or theyre in a
hurry or something. I dont understand what it is that they dont
This instructor believed that in order for students to critically assess new
ideas, they must already be adept at study skills, basic math, grammar, and
research methods.

Similar to the faculty at South, the faculty at North relied on the
demographic mix of students enrolled in the course when asked how the
program promotes recognition of multiple viewpoints. One instructor
described how the class is composed of students so two or three generations
are covered, again all walks of life.. .1 mean the whole gambit is covered.
Another instructor did discuss in some detail issues that were currently
evolving in the student cohort around age and maturity. He described trying to
find a balance with the portion of the class who are right out of high school,
and younger with the rest of the class who are older and often have worked,
lived on their own and raised children. This instructor struggled with how
much easier the class would be to manage if the two groups were separate, but
then students would miss the opportunity to be exposed to adults with much
different viewpoints, especially when they discuss controversial issues.
Also similar to South, at North, faculty responses to the pair of
questions about how the program helps students complete a degree versus
how it helps those who do not complete a degree were revealing. The faculty
at North were also somewhat puzzled when asked to describe how this
program helps students even if they do not finish their degree. Quite simply,
the components of the program that foster intellectual development, such as
teaching self advocacy, critical reflection, and recognition of multiple

viewpoints are clear examples of the benefits to students who do not complete
a degree but will use those skills in their adult lives. Since faculty did not
always readily describe those elements in the course, it is not surprising that
they did not realize those elements help students regardless of whether they
finish a degree.
Student Interviews
While it became evident during the study that faculty were not always
familiar with the terminology of intellectual development principles, it was
presumed before the interviews that students would find these terms foreign.
Therefore, the questions for students were somewhat more explicit. For
example, instead of asking how does this program promote self advocacy?
the question for students became how does this program teach you to speak
up for yourself? The student interviews generally supported the findings
from the classroom observations and the faculty interviews.
The students interviewed at South had completed all three components
of the first year transition program before being interviewed. This allowed
them the benefit of reflecting on how the transition program had impacted the
rest of their college career. When asked how the program taught them how to
speak up for themselves, all of the students replied that they already did that,

which is possible that they had already developed their own voice, so the
question was re-directed to ask how the program taught that skill to students
who needed it. One student explained that instructors repeatedly encouraged
students to speak up, especially if they needed help. Another student described
how even though he already knew how to speak his mind; the course helped
him to communicate with other people better.
One female student did admit that she was uncomfortable to approach
a teacher in another course to discuss a grade dispute. She explained how the
transition program mentor helped her to practice for the conversation. The
student described a positive outcome when she finally approached the teacher,
but she admitted that if that experience had gone poorly, she would have been
even more afraid to approach instructors. This same student also expressed
surprise at herself for even participating in the interview for this study,
suggesting that she was still developing her own voice and self advocacy
When asked indirectly how the transition program taught them to
critically reflect, one student described how one instructor stressed checking
the credibility of sources and discovering where knowledge came from. This
student described learning how to detach from the reading, look at more
perspectives, and form his own opinion. Another student explained realizing

that teachers can make mistakes and the class was about more than just the
grades; it was about the ideas and discussion. She went on to explain how she
saw the teachers as experts, but she learned to trust her own judgment.
As for how the transition program taught students how to recognize
multiple viewpoints, the students did not see this element as simply covering
cultural diversity the way many faculty did. One student described how he
learned to reconcile when two sources disagreed, and how the instructor often
encouraged active discussion. This student stated that even the shy students
had a chance to share their voice in class. Another student described how she
discovered that everyone has a different way of learning, and not all learning
styles work the same way.
However, the students at South did seem to feel that for the students
who did not express their voice in class, it was a result of shyness, not
intellectual development. One student described how the teacher would
involve the class in group discussions, but some students were still too shy
to speak up. Another student suggested that these shy students were perhaps
sheltered growing up or lacked discipline or motivation in class. One student
even went so far as to say he came out of the transition course feeling that
its all on you and students who decide to leave college must do so because
of outside factors influencing their lives.

As with the faculty interviews, students were also asked the pair of
questions regarding how the transition program helps them to complete a
degree versus how the program helps students who do not complete a degree.
Overall the students had less ambiguity with these two questions, compared to
the faculty, but they did take more time to consider their response about how
they were incorporating elements of the transition program into their life
outside of school.
Students described factors about the transition program which helped
them complete a degree such as orientation, study skills, degree planning, and
financial aid coaching. As for the elements of the program that helped with
adult life outside of school, one student stated that it helped him to
communicate better with authorities and to advise his friends on what to
expect if they wanted to go to college. Another student shared how she
overcame a habit of trying to do it on my own, without asking for help.
Even though more students agreed to be interviewed at North, only
one female student participated, despite other female students being actively
recruited. Students at North had many similar responses to those from students
at South, even though the students at North were just beginning their program,
and varied in age much more than the students interviewed at South.

Beginning with the self advocacy component, one student at North
disclosed how the transition program showed him that everybody has the
right to be educated. Another student stated that the program made me more
confident about speaking in class. Yet another student shared how the
instructors try to let you know to protect your rights as a student. One
student who was visibly nervous in the interview and somewhat soft spoken
explained how he was thinking I wasnt ready, but now I see everybody else
and I feel comfortable. The one female student shared how she already spoke
up for herself in her adult life, but she started the program really shy about
speaking in front of the class.
However, similar to the students at South, the students at North
attributed a students lack of voice in class to shyness instead of intellectual
development. One student validated what the class observation revealed where
the more outspoken students dominate the discussion and assert their
opinions, suggesting that perhaps if the instructors call on the quiet ones
more. Another student expressed a desire for instructors to be more stem,
which could imply a need for discipline or structure so that the outspoken
students have less domination.
As for the critical reflection aspect of the transition program at North,
all the students interviewed easily cited examples. This was different than the

overall student response at South, perhaps because the program at North has
much more in-class time for the students as a cohort, and there is considerably
more group discussion. One student put it simply as the instructor teaching
them to not just blindly believe everything you read. Yet another student
reinforced this by stating that there had already been class discussion around
theres never just one answer.
The intellectual development aspect of recognizing multiple
viewpoints garnered the most reinforcing responses from students, perhaps
because the cohort of 20 students was quite varied in background; several
ages, ethnicities and ability levels were present, while the gender mix was
split evenly. Again, as at South, the students did not perceive this question as
simply regarding cultural diversity, the way most faculty did; they seemed to
more readily appreciate that the question was about a persons entire
While some of the older students did express that they already had
learned this life lesson, all students validated that the transition program at
North was promoting recognition of multiple viewpoints. One student stated
what I believe isnt necessarily what the next person believes in. Another
said the program teaches you to read between the lines, Ill state my side and
try my best not to argue. One student described how the curriculum method

of group projects fostered this aspect of intellectual development, saying the
class had a lot of group activities that help with that, were forced to interact
and be more open. Another student expressed that the conversations about
other point of view were really helpful and it was something you maybe
would not have thought of on your own.
Similar to students at South, students at North shared some insightful
observations when asked the pair of questions regarding how the program
helps students complete a degree and how it helps students who do not. One
student expressed that number one, they taught me learning is fun. Another
student admitted without this program, I probably would not have got back in
school. Also similar to students response at South, students at North
described elements such as study skills, academic review, tutoring, and degree
planning as aspects of the program that help students complete a degree. One
student did observe that at the beginning it was more of an orientation,
students were anxious, they need to get everyone into the mix. When asked
about how the program helps with life outside of school, one student
described being more open to other peoples ideas.
Perhaps the most insightful comments came from one student who
admitted to making poor choices in the class due to his own immaturity. He
described the cohort of students as two groups, one group is making the most

of the course and is open to other peoples perspective; the other group wants
to make the most of it, but they dont know how. He described this group as
some people are just stuck in their mind frame, and they dont know how to
get out of that. He explained that things are starting to make sense to me
now. What this student described appears to validate that some students in
the cohort are in fact developing intellectually during the transition program,
and other students are stuck but unsure what to even ask for help with.
Summary of findings
Analysis of both program evaluations produced a total of nine positive
findings and eight challenging findings across the program, curriculum, faculty, and
student domains. The findings are explained here, summarized below in Table 3, and
discussed in the next chapter, with recommendations for the challenging findings.
First, at the program level, the positive findings include students improved
performance on placement tests after completing the transition programs, student
reporting of significant benefits from the mentoring or tutoring provided, and the
wealth of referrals for students to services on campus and in the community.
The challenging findings at the program level begin with the evaluation and
review of the programs by students and data collection on the programs being
inconsistent and not specific. Also at the program level, the transition programs may

not be offered to enough students, may need to be longer in duration, and perhaps
should expand.
The key positive findings at the curriculum level include the use of multiple
cooperative learning and group projects, and frequent reviews of major concepts
needed at the higher education level, such as degree planning, writing skills, and math
review. One challenging finding at the curriculum level was that the programs are
indeed teaching and supporting elements of intellectual development, but it is not
explicit in the curriculum. Another challenging finding is that the curriculum at both
sites does cover degree planning, especially around transfer options, but does not
focus on degree choices as they relate to career options. The third challenging finding
related to curriculum is that many curriculum methods used for skill building and
remedial review do not promote higher order thinking.
Positive findings at the faculty level include the commitment faculty members
demonstrated to transitioning students, especially non-traditional and marginalized
students. Another positive finding about faculty is how much they are promoting
intellectual development elements such as self advocacy, critical reflection, and
recognition of multiple viewpoints in students. Challenging findings related to faculty
include the level of awareness of intellectual development varied across faculty and
administrators, but generally both groups expressed interest in learning more and
incorporating these concepts into their program. A second challenging finding about

faculty is when asked about recognition of multiple viewpoints as an intellectual
development element, faculty tended to confuse this with traditional diversity and
multicultural issues, whereas students did not show this same confusion.
The major positive findings specific to the student level are the gains students
reported in self advocacy, critical reflection, and recognition of multiple viewpoints;
and the diversity of student backgrounds present in the transition classes. The only
challenging finding specific to students is that female students did not actively
express their voices, as evidenced in classroom observation, and the hesitancy to
participate in the interview process, compared to male students.

Table 3
Summary of key findings
Domain Positive Findings Challenging Findings
Program level 1. Improved student performance on placement tests 2. One on one mentoring and tutoring widely available 3. Referrals to services on campus and in community 1. Inconsistent data collection and review of program 2. Program could be more credits and/or offered to more students
Curriculum level 4. Multiple cooperative learning and group activities 5. In depth review of concepts needed for success in higher education 3. Programs are promoting intellectual development, just not explicitly 4. Degree planning is covered, could be more related to career choices 5. More skill building and remedial review than higher order thinking
Faculty 6. Commitment to non- traditional and marginalized students 7. Promoting intellectual development concepts more than they realize 6. Faculty awareness of intellectual development concepts minimal/need for training 7. Confusion of multiple viewpoints with multicultural issues
Students 8. Gains made in self advocacy, critical reflection and recognition of multiple viewpoints 9. Diversity of student backgrounds in classes 8. Expression of female students voice could be supported more directly

The current evaluation of two separate first year student transition
programs reveals elements about the programs, the curriculum, the faculty,
and the students which promote intellectual development. The evaluation also
shows where improvements to the programs, curriculum, and faculty expertise
could foster more intellectual development in students, whether they stay
enrolled and complete their degree or not. This chapter offers a discussion of
these findings and a set of recommendations for transition programs seeking
to their outcomes related to intellectual development. A summary of the
recommendations can be found in Appendix B, as a handout presented to the
participating programs.
Program Level
The research question at the program level was to describe how the
program is organized and implemented. Findings from both programs show
positive elements observed during this study including the transition programs
allowing students to review concepts necessary for higher education; students
are allowed to re-take placement tests for college level classes; students
benefit considerably from the one on one mentoring and tutoring; and students
appreciate the referrals to services on the campus and in the community.

Another benefit was the self knowledge and reflection provided by the self
assessment tools at both programs. Students interviewed also clearly
appreciated the opportunity to leam from a diverse group of peers while at the
same time feeling a sense of camaraderie with other adults who are making
the transition to postsecondary education.
The evaluation found that these transition programs tend to focus more
on teaching students how to study, not teaching students how to think. This
became evident as all participants were asked what program elements help
students to complete their degree, and then asked what program elements help
students even if they do not get their degree. Thus a first recommendation is
that administrators and faculty review how their program helps students who
may not complete a degree. As suggested in the literature, a high percentage
of adult students may not complete their degree, but nonetheless interact with
their families, leam at their jobs, and participate in their communities.
Therefore, practice at self advocacy, critical reflection, and recognizing
multiple viewpoints can promote development and be of benefit to all
students, even those who do not complete a degree.
Additional recommendations at the program level concern data
collection and evaluation at both programs. This study revealed that data
collection and review at both programs was inconsistent and fairly minimal,

often limited to demographic information required by funding sponsors. This
study supports the recommendation that data collection not only capture
student demographics for funding, but specifics from each program which
could demonstrate how the transition program is helping students who are
involved versus those who do not enroll, and even how the program is helping
students who do not complete a degree but improve elsewhere in their adult
lives. Some tactics to address this issue include creating an evaluation form
that is unique to the transition program for students to complete during the
course and at the end. In addition to this suggestion, contacting former
students for feedback and ideas about improvements to the program might
reveal even more student feedback than this study captured. Additionally, data
collection at both sites is minimal and primarily driven by funding.
A final recommendation at the program level concerns program
duration and enrollment. All faculty members interviewed expressed support
for making the transition program longer in terms of contact hours and credits,
to be able to include more curriculum methods and not just focus on how to
study. This study also suggests that the transition programs be promoted and
offered to more students, perhaps even required for certain students, such as
current students who are placed on academic probation or those who have
been out of school for a number of years.