#ATTI80: Chickering

We all know Chickering. It’s probably one of the first theories we all learn and want to use in grad school. So I figured it was time that I threw him up on my whiteboard and see how I visually break it down.

But as always, let’s start with a little background. ūüôā

Chickering first published the Seven Vectors in 1969,¬†but re-visited it in 1993. Since then, the Massachusetts native has become one of the leading researchers in¬†student development theory. He has served at several colleges and universities but has served most at Goddard College where he was first a faculty member in the 1960’s and most recently served as Special Assistant to the President.

Chickering’s Seven Vectors are major fluid and non-sequential components of student development. Each has its own vast developmental process and an individual can travel between them in any order depending on the Seven Environmental Influences which¬†are grounded in the Three Admonitions which provide the ability to create such environments for individuals to develop in.


Now, onto the Seven Vectors! And they are:

Developing Competence: This vector is all about developing an individual’s intellectual (lightbulb), physical (barbell) and interpersonal (heart) attributes and skills.

Managing Emotions: This vector is exactly as it sounds. This is a time when an individual learns to process, develop and manage emotions.

Moving Through Autonomy Towards Interdependence: This vector is all about increasing the amount of dependence an individual has on themselves, freeing themselves from depending on or seeking approval from others.

Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships: This vectors addresses acknowledging, developing and committing to relationships with those of different identities, cultures, etc.

Establishing Identity: This vector handles coming to a stable understanding of oneself and identifying as one desires in spite of feedback from others.

Developing Purpose: This vector is a period when an individual creates plans, goals and commitments to themselves and others.

Developing Integrity: This vector includes balancing interests between others and oneself, the building of a personal values system and congruence between the two.

As we all know, environments will create journeys for individuals and¬†therefore,¬†depending on the environment an individual’s development journey may differ than another. Therefore Chickering proposed Seven Environmental Influences (And in true Brian Form, I created an acronym):

I.F.  S.T.I.C.S. 

Institutional Objectives

Friendships and Student Communities

Student-Faculty Relationships


Institutional Size


Student Programs and Services

Chickering also introduced Three Admonitions that are foundations of creating powerful educational environments, which are pretty self-explanatory:

Integration of Work and Learning

Recognition and Respect for Individual Differences

Acknowlegment of the Cyclical Nature of Learning and Development

Now, I used one of my favorite geometric doodles to really get the idea across that the vectors have no sequential progression. An individual will experience them at different times in different sequences progressing through different versions of the development cycle.

For application purposes, I think back to a student I advised a few years ago. They had worked through all seven vectors throughout their early college career, as a straight, Hispanic, Catholic male, but then they made the decision to come out as gay. With that decision, we progressed through the vectors again, but in a difference order really focusing on accepting and developing as an individual with a gay identity. A year after college, they decided to leave their religious belief system and I watched them progress through the vectors yet again, in yet a different sequence focusing their development as a now gay, Hispanic, agnostic male.

I’ve also gone through these vectors many times in many difference sequences, and maybe one day I’ll break that down as a future post ūüôā

But for now, that’s Chickering!

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!



Evans, Nancy J., et al. (2010). Chapter four: Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development. Student development in college: theory, research and practice (ed. 2, pp. 64-81). San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass.

Goddard College (2016, June 27). Art Chickering. Retrieved from http://www.goddard.edu/people/art-chickering/

NASPA (2014). Arthur Chickering autobiography published by NASPA  [Press Release]. retrieved from http://www.naspa.org/images/uploads/main/NASPA_Press_Release_-_Cool_Passion.pdf

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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