A theory from way back in the day- The Role of Educators

Posted on February 2, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I was sitting around trying to drum up some ideas for posts about student development theory tonight and decide to read some of my Think Cards from back in the day (aka Fall 2007) to get some ideas. I came across a definition of “the role of educators” that I wanted to explore a bit more. According to Frank Parsons the role of educators is to:

1.) provide environments for growth, not determine a student’s direction or type of growth (or amount of growth) AND  * I added this part, you’ll see my rationale below

2.) understand a student’s motives for change

I saw this as applicable for a number of reasons and wanted to spend some time expanding upon its applications.

I can definitely see how this definition of the role of educators goes hand-in-hand with some philosophies regarding student conduct work. Working with students in the conduct process involves a great deal of listening, asking follow-up questions, asking questions to get students to reflect on their experience and how it impacted them and others, and providing them with information about the consequences of future violations. As a conduct officer, I provide the information necessary for students to make more informed choices and consider their decisions through multiple lens, however I ultimately am not in control, over whether or not they grow and in which way they do so. Some students may choose to completely stop engaging in behaviors that put them in potential violation of the conduct code. Others may continue these behaviors but do so using risk reduction techniques. Others may assess the personal or professional benefits or risks attached to certain behaviors and make decisions based on their findings. I’ve also found that I can’t dictate how much a student grows along any sort of continuum. This has been a bit frustrating for me, because grand, sweeping changes always look impressive, but most student development is by degree and all I can do is support and applaud any growth that my students achieve.

I think this philosophy also holds true for advising. I can provide the necessary information and resources and show them how to find additional resources on their own in order to move forward with any number of academic and/or exploratory plans, but it is ultimately up to them what they do with the information I provide. They will ultimately determine if they want to grow through academics, extra-curricular activities, jobs, internships, etc. Maybe they will choose to grow intellectually, perhaps socially, perhaps artistically; it is ultimately their call.

In terms of the second part of the theory, that educators needs to understand a student’s motives for change, I couldn’t agree more, however I question whether knowing a student’s motives for change make it harder to not try and determine the type or direction of growth. If I know that a student wants to change because his behaviors because they are causing stress between him and his roommate, then I’m likely to suggest growth in interpersonal communication. If I know that a student is choosing a major because she thinks it will be an easy way to make lots of money, I will probably direct her to talk with several people in the profession to get more information.

In other words, while I understand and appreciate both of these concepts surrounding educators’ roles on the surface, I don’t know if I or anyone else can operate within both of them at the same time, all the time.

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional

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