I conducted my observation at the University of North Georgia, a four year public

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1 Running Head: STUDENT DEVELOPMENT 1 I conducted my observation at the University of North Georgia, a four year public institution in Dahlonega. I positioned myself in a central part of campus in which a large amount of students would cross during the transition of class periods. This particular part of campus further lent to the observation of group interactions. North Georgia currently has an enrollment of 5,851 students, offering many opportunities to view a variety of student interactions and individual developments, both independently and in groups. North Georgia exhibits some diversity as well; 43% of the student population being male and 57% female, though the majority of campus is Caucasian. Overall, this location presented an array of interactions from amongst a diverse group of students. During my initial observation, I can quickly assess the academic level of nearly each student, simply from their demeanor and interaction with their peers. I found a large connection between Erikson s psychological developmental stages theory during my observations due to this clear differentiation amongst the various ages and grade levels. The particular stage of interest here in Erikson s 8 stages is the fifth stage, identity versus identity confusion. Depending on the age of the student, this can be a very difficult time in understanding who they are, seeking a lifelong career path, and finding ways to connect with their peers. Students do not simply jump from one stage to the next, but instead slowly transition over time as they seek out new experiences. In his research, these transitions or stages were often called crisis. However, for Erikson, a crisis is not a physical or psychological emergency, but rather a period requiring serious consideration of and choices among possible courses of action (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). College students make considerable choices that will have a major impact on their future aspirations, such as the social lives they lead and the academic courses they take during these critical years.

2 Running Head: STUDENT DEVELOPMENT 2 For those who furthered Erikson s studies, researchers found that there was a noticeable change in student s self-understanding from their freshman year to their senior year in college. What they found was as a student progressed towards their fourth year they became more aware and understanding of their behaviors and perceivable consequences, also known as their individual self-concept. One s self-concept can be divided into two categories, academic and social, but these two concepts can be perceived as entirely separate from an individual s overall self-concept. As Pascarella and Terenzini stated, an individual s self-concept can be theoretically and empirically differentiated from one s academic self-concept or social selfconcept (2005). Comparatively, I was able to assess a positive increase in self-esteem, in which individual s comparison of a real and ideal self (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Though academics and steps toward a career are the obvious reasons students go to college, they are also searching for acceptability and feelings of self-worth. This is why the development of selfconcept and identity is so important during college. Researchers Ku and Hu found that there was reported gains in personal-social development that align with the progression from the start of freshman year to graduation day. As students walk about the center of UNG, I view that some are speaking amongst a group, laughing and exhibiting a great deal of ease amongst their peers, while other students walk by themselves and are focused more on self-contemplation. Both are very important in personalsocial development, but a large part of a student s development includes an increase in their overall cognitive skills. Social and extracurricular effort involvement in particular positively influences cognitive skill development and intellectual growth. Observing students outside of the classroom is the best way to understand this area of individual development. At a glance, I perceive students interacting with other students of different socioeconomic backgrounds and

3 Running Head: STUDENT DEVELOPMENT 3 personal experiences, with the majority of students having stepped foot on the college campus with very different backstories. These individual experiences that students have accumulated prior to attending college creates a melting pot of ideas and values, altering and opening our own perceptions and making them broader. Associating this with Astin s 2x2 taxonomy, students exhibit affective-psychosocial behavior in which their attitudes and values are being questioned and their individual morality is further understood. According to our reading, there are three variables that consistently have a positive effect on students, and this includes the frequency of student and teacher interaction, the degree of curricular flexibility, and faculty members formal educational level. I was only able to really observe the first variable, frequency of student and teacher interaction. Towards the end of my observation, I was very fortunate to come across a class that chose to have their instruction outside instead of in the classroom, which I found fascinating and insightful. When students were able to have a small group discussion outside on the main lawn, every student became involved and had a great deal of comfort when interacting with their peers and instructor. Everyone seemed to have a place in the conversation, providing for another aspect of Astin s 2x2 taxonomy in which cognitive-psychological development occurs and critical thinking skills are strengthened. Though I was only able to view student interaction from afar and outside of the traditional classroom, I was able to make parallels between individual and group behavior with critical developmental periods that they were currently experiencing. Through social interaction on a college campus, student exposure to diverse culture, different socioeconomic backgrounds, and a variety of perspectives lend themselves to further cognitive and social development for each student. After conducting my observation I must agree that college is truly necessary for a

4 Running Head: STUDENT DEVELOPMENT 4 young adult to adequately transition into adulthood, exhibiting greater confidence and a stronger self-concept than those who chose not to attend a post-secondary institution.

5 Running Head: STUDENT DEVELOPMENT 5 References Pascarella, T., & Terenzini, P. (2005). How college affects students. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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