Chickering's Vector One Still Applies.
I recently reviewed Dr. Arthur Chickering's Seven Vectors of Development for my work at Louisiana State University. As part of the administrative team at a technical college, I immediately connected the annual cohort of incoming students to the first vector – "developing competence" (Patton et al., 2016, p. 297). Despite various critiques of the theory, my experience shows me that the fundamental principles of Chickering still apply. For example, Foubert et al. (2005) take issue with Chickering's research as it was limited to a cohort of "traditionally aged college students" (p.461) between
the ages of 18-24. I respect that critique, yet I witness 'non-traditional' students ages 17 to 70 enroll in our school knee-deep in vector one with every enrollment period.
At our school, 2,000 of our students are under 18 and enrolled in high school, and the other 3,000 are adults in various stages of their professional careers. In each case (high school & adult), most students are either in the process of developing their competence, developing confidence in their competence, or exploring new competencies as part of "recycling" (Patton et al., 2016, p.297) through Chickering's vectors.
To help support our students in vector one, Patton et al. (2016) encourage us to create or sustain "an environment [that] promotes psychosocial development" (p.308). A quick audit of my school shows that we apply Chickering's theory through various programs that target a few "key influences" (p.299): institutional size, student-faculty relationships, curriculum, teaching, student development programs, and friendships and student communities
Besides being a relatively small school with low teacher/student ratios that allow for more interpersonal support, we offer students a comprehensive counselor and advisor system like LSU's Concierge Program. Once in the classroom, student development through vector one is supported through close interaction with teachers whose curriculum and teaching style is shaped by their deep connection to industry. Unlike traditional schools steeped in academic pedagogy, our technical college employs instructors either recently removed from or still active in the workforce. This connection lets students immediately connect the skills they have or are learning to vocational expectations.
Another key influence in developing competence that our school takes great care to foster is in the "friendships and student communities" (Patton et al., 2016, p.301) space. We offer online engagement platforms for discussions and 'sandboxing' and town hall discussions and workshops. Moreover, most of our programs engage an informal peer leadership program that utilizes the competencies of more advanced students as a scaffold for newer ones.
In today's higher education system, we find newly enrolled students of all ages either developing or refreshing their competencies. Perhaps rather than criticize the original theory's sample age demographics as too traditional (Foubert et al., 2005), we might look at vector one not as a function of age but through the lens of programmatic experience.
Foubert, J., Nixon, M.L., Sisson, V.S., & Barnes, A.C. (2005). A Longitudinal Study of Chickering and Reisser's Vectors: Exploring Gender Differences and Implications for Refining the Theory. Journal of College Student Development, 46(5), 461-471. https://doi.org/10.1353/csd.2005.0047
Patton, L.D., Renn, K.A., Guido, F.M., & Quaye, S.J. (2016). Student Development in College: Theory, Research, and Practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.