#ATTI80: Astin

Well folks, today I thought I’d tackle a theory I utilize more frequently, Astin’s Theory of Student Involvement.

Now, this is probably the first theory I ever learned and used as a Student Affairs professional, and as you know you always remember the first. However, it was interesting to go through this theory today. But let’s start, as we always do with a little history.

Alexander W. Astin was born in 1932 in Washington D.C. He first published his student involvement theory in 1984. He realized there were components missing from the three self-coined pedagogical approaches he observed in the higher education field; and with his theory, suggested that rather than focus on what the material, resources and approaches are it’s what does a student DO with them in order to complete the process between policies and programs and student achievement and development. Also, a fun fact; Astin is the brother of famous actor John Astin (Addams Family), uncle of famous actors Sean Astin (Rudy and Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Mackenzie Astin (Facts of Life and Iron Will).

IMG_3740So now onto Student Involvement Theory! Within the theory there are Five Postulates:

  1. Investment of physical and psychological energy in various objects
  2. Involvement occurs along a continuum
  3. Involvement has both quantitative and qualitative components
  4. The amount of student learning and development is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of student involvement
  5. Student learning and development is directly related  to the capacity of a policy or practice to increase student involvement.

These were identified to help “complete” what Astin saw as the traditional pedagogical theories which he identified as; 1) subject-matter (basing learning on the content provided); 2) resource theory (basing learning on the resources students are given access to); 3) individualized theory (basing learning on each student and what learning styles and content are needed for them to learn).

Astin realized that these were “black box” types of pedagogical theories, where there were identified inputs and outputs. However, these pedagogical theories did not explain what occurred in order for the inputs to result the outputs, thus the creation of involvement theory.

it should be noted, that Astin acknowledges that the key to the success Student Involvement Theory is not just the five postulates. It also needs the time for one to engage/experience the five postulates.

So how does dissecting this theory help me beyond the obvious? Well, I’m so glad you asked! And I can’t wait to tell you in one of my future #AATI80 posts 😉 I began to write it out but realized it would be more beneficial as its own post.

So until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!



Astin, Alexander W. (1984). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40(5), 518-529. 


Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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