Our Approach to Student Development

Student Development Theory

Develop. Support. Engage.

The Office of Student Development is committed to creating opportunities that engage and support the development of the whole student. 

Schlossberg's Theory of Transition: provides a framework and foundation for the programs and services offered through our office to assist students in their success. 

Schlossberg defined a transition as any event, or non-event, that results in changed relationships, routines, assumptions, and roles. It is important to note that perception plays a key role in transitions as an event, or non-event, meets the definition of a transition only if it is so defined by the individual experiencing it. In order to understand the meaning that a transition has for a particular individual, the type, context, and impact of the transition must be considered.

  • Type of transition
    • Anticipated transitions: ones that occur predictably, such as graduation from college
    • Unanticipated transitions: not predictable or scheduled, such as divorce or sudden death of a loved one
    • Non-events: transitions that are expected but do not occur, such as failure to be admitted to medical school
      • Personal non-event: related to individual aspirations
      • Ripple non-event: felt due to a nonevent of someone else
      • Resultant non-event: caused by an event
      • Delayed non-event: anticipating an event that might still happen
  • Context refers to one's relationship with the transition and to the setting in which the transition takes place.
  • Impact is determined by the degree to which a transition alters one's daily life.

Schlossberg identified four major sets of factors that influence a person's ability to cope with a transition: situation, self, support, and strategies, which are also known as the 4 S's.

  • Situation
    • Trigger: What precipitated the transition?
    • Timing: Is the transition considered "on time" or "off time" in terms of one's social clock?
    • Control: What aspect of the transition does the individual perceive as being within his/her control?
    • Role change: Is a role change involved and, if so, is it viewed as a gain or a loss?
    • Duration: Is it seen as permanent, temporary, or uncertain?
    • Previous experience with a similar transition: How effectively did the person cope then, and what are implications for the current transition?
    • Concurrent stress: Are other sources of stress present?
    • Assessment: Who or what is seen as responsible for the transition, and how is the individual's behavior affected by this person?
  • Self: factors considered important in relation to the self are classified into two categories
    • Personal and demographic characteristics affect how an individual views life, such as socioeconomic status, gender, age, stage of life, state of health, and ethnicity.
    • Psychological resources include ego development, outlook, and commitment and values.
  • Social support
    • Intimate relationships
    • Family units
    • Networks of friends
    • Institutions and communities
  • Strategies, or coping responses, are divided into three categories
    • Those that modify the situation
    • Those that control the meaning of the problem
    • Those that aid in managing the stress in the aftermath

    The Office of Student Development applies this theory by helping students understand situations, develop self-awareness, identify support and implement strategies for success. 

This page last updated 18th Sep 2014