Arthur Chickering’s Seven Vectors of Development

Your Changing Student

Chickering, A.W. (1969)
Education and Identity, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Chickering's seven vectors, or tasks, are the developmental projects that students face during their undergraduate years. They are not accomplished suddenly, usually requiring repeated exposure to appropriate developmental environments over one or more years. The vectors are not age-specific, but in general, they are the set of developmental tasks that most freshmen are involved with.Some research has indicated that there are differences between men and women. For example, women tend to integrate the management of emotions ahead of men, while men tend to achieve autonomy ahead of women.

(1) Developing Competence
Although intellectual competence is of primary importance in college, this vector includes physical and interpersonal competence as well. The student who attends college seeking only credentials for entry into the work world is sometimes surprised to find that his or her intellectual interests and valued friendships change as a result of his or her personal development through the college years.

(2) Managing Emotions
Moving from adolescence to adulthood means learning how to manage emotions like anger and sexual desire. The young person who attempts to control these emotions by “stuffing” them finds they can emerge with more force at a later time.

(3) Developing Autonomy
Being able to take care of oneself, both emotionally and practically, is critically important to growing up and becoming independent from one’s family of origin.

(4) Estabilishing Identity
The age-old question — who am I? — is asked and answered many times during a lifetime. Yet, that question has exquisite urgency and poignancy during the college years. This vector is especially problematic for women and ethnic minorities who may feel invisible in our society or have multiple roles to play in different situations.

(5) Freeing Interpersonal Relationships
First, one moves from valuing relationships based on need (dependence) to valuing individual differences in people

Next, the person learns how to negotiate those differences in relationships.

Finally, the young person begins to understand the need for inter-dependence and seeks mutual benefit from relationships.

(6) Developing Purpose
The young person identifies her or his career and life goals and, hopefully, makes appropriate choices to achieve those goals.

(7) Establishing Integrity
This level of maturity does not come easily. Once achieved, however, the young adult is able to live with those uncertainties that exist in the adult world. In addition, he or she adapts society’s rules so they become personally meaningful.