Student Involvement…There’s a theory for that, so it must be important?

By William Takewell

Yes, there’s a theory for student involvement, so you could say that makes it important. In fact there are quite a few theories out there. That’s why colleges and universities employ people in an area known as Student Affairs. Theory helps us understand what we can do to better understand where you are as students and establish your understanding for the need for to be involved and how we can be supportive of that involvement.

Get ready, here’s an explanation of one theory behind all of this (don’t get overwhelmed, it will be ok!):

In 1993, theorist Alexander Astin developed the I.E.O. Model for Assessing Student Involvement, here’s the breakdown on how we can use it:


  • “I” stands for input. This is typically the student that is getting involved in a student organization and the characteristics or set of beliefs/values they are bringing with them. This could include things like the educational background the student has, religious beliefs, financial status, career goals or academic major—among many other things.
    • What beliefs are you bringing with you in the fall?
    • Are there groups that can help you work with those values or belong to a community that values them?
  • “E” stands for environment. The environment includes everything can happen to a student during the time they are on our campus that could have an impact on their education—for this we will stick mainly to student organizations. Some things to consider in regards to environment:
    • How does being a member of the student organization you’re in shape or influence what you’re doing in the classroom?
    • Is it changing the way you think about things or do things?
    • Have any of your previous inputs changed as a result of being involved in the organization you’re in?
  • “O” stands for outputs or outcomes. This is generally the area that people will use as the why you should get involved:
    • “You should join our group because we have the highest G.P.A. on campus and value academics,” or,
    • “Join our group and join a network of people who are supportive of you and what you believe in.” Outcomes include how you change and what you value as a result of belonging to the university you attend or the organization you’re a member of. 

Outcomes are reflective, and allow you to look back on what you came to college valuing or believing (your inputs) and how your experience in a student group helped you further develop those values and beliefs or how you changed some of them. Further, these sets of values and beliefs that you are leaving with will hopefully assist in shaping the person you will be post-graduation.

That wasn’t too bad, was it? 

Astin’s is not the only theory to consider, by far. But, it is something realistic to think about. Hopefully, you will join some groups that meet you where you are as a student, but you will also challenge yourself to join something that is outside of your comfort zone. Typically, challenging yourself to belong to something that is unfamiliar will give you the chance to learn something new or possibly reinforce something you already know.

Next week we will have a featured Student Ambassador write about their experience getting involved and how it has shaped them individually. Feel free to comment and let us know what you think!

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One Response to Student Involvement…There’s a theory for that, so it must be important?

  1. Benjamin.M.Williams says:

    Really like this article. I think Astin’s really shows so much of what Student Affairs is about and the way we interact and challenge students.

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