At-Risk Students in Higher Education Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

At-Risk Students in Higher Education

The objective of this work is to write on three theories that are or should be part of developmental education theory in higher education and specifically as related to at-risk students. This study will be in the form of a review of literature in this area of inquiry that is located in academic and professional journals and articles as well as other such peer-reviewed publications.

Sociocultural Theory

Tharp (2001) writes in the work entitled "From At Risk to Excellence: Research, Theory and Principles for Practice" that sociocultural-based school programs are such that use the innate curiosity of students to "construct miniature communities of scientific practice." (p.11) Participation in schoolwork is participation in sociocultural activity and this is stated "to occur on many planes or levels of interaction." (Tharp, 2001, p.11)

It is stated in the work of Rogoff (1995) that research can be divided into three general types and that this is dependent upon "the plane of focus." (Tharp, 2011, p.11) The three general types are stated to include the following:

(1) The personal plane involves cognition, emotion, behavior, values, and beliefs. In educational research this may very well respond to studies of individual student or teacher actions or competence;

(2) The interpersonal or social plane includes communication, role performances, dialogue, cooperation, conflict, assistance, and assessment. In education this plane may very well be addressed through studies on teaching and learning interactions and activity settings in teacher education programs or cooperative learning groups;

(3) The community plane is such that includes shared history, language, rules, values, beliefs, and identities. In educational research, the community plane links to studies of the whole school district as well as professions and politics and neighborhoods, tribes and cultures.

In understanding human development, all of these planes must be considered. The emphasis of sociocultural theory is "the personal, interpersonal, and community planes" and the inseparability of these three planes. Vygotsky (1978) expressed this idea in his statement of "everything that is psychological was first social." Participation in sociocultural activity involves the "mind, community and culture" creating one another in a mutual exchange.

II. Student Involvement Theory

Student involvement theory is proposed to be an important factor in the development of the student in the higher education institution. Astin (1984) writes in the work entitled "Student Involvement: A Development Theory for Higher Education" that involvement "refers to the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devote to the academic experience. Thus a highly motivated student is one who, for example, devotes considerable energy to studying, spends time on campus, participates actively in student organizations, and interacts frequently with faculty members and other students." (Astin, 1984, p.518) The uninvolved student is one who "neglects studies, spends little time on campus, abstains from extracurricular activities, and has infrequent contact with faculty members or other students." (Astin, 1984, p. 518) There are five primary components in the involvement theory stated to include the following:

(1) Involvement refers to the investment of physical and psychological energy in various objects. The objects may be highly generalized (the student experience) or highly specific.

(2) Regardless of its object, involvement occurs along a continuum; that is, different students manifest different degrees of involvement…

Sources Used in Document:


A Student Development Perspective at the University of California, Berkeley (2004) Retrieved from:

Tharp, Roland G. (1997) From At-Risk to Excellence; Research, Theory, and Principles for Practice. Center for Research on Education Diversity & Excellence. Retrieved from:

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