No such thing as a developmental student

A myth persists that learning assistance serves only “developmental stu­dents.” Actually, no such thing as a “developmental student” exists.

Rather, it is more accurate to say that some students are not academically prepared for college-level work in one or more academic content areas (English, mathe­matics, or writing) or in specificskills such as reading or study strategies. The relative need and usefulness of learning assistance for an individual student depends on the overall academic rigor of the institution, the subject matter studied, or even how one faculty member teaches a particular course compared with another from the same academic department.

Therefore, the same indi­vidual could be a major consumer of learning assistance at one institution and not at another or even in one academic department and not another in the same institution. The need for learning assistance services is not a character­istic or universal defining attribute of the student; it depends on the condi­tions and expectations of the specific learning environment for a particular course. All college students are on a continuum between novice and master learner. Learning assistance serves students located along this continuum through a wide range of activities and services. The same student is often located at different places on multiple continuum lines simultaneously, one for each academic context and skill area.

Another way to look at this issue is to say that ALL students are "developmental". All people are "developmental". We are all changing and "developing". We are all at different stages in all aspects of our lives. To be human is to be developmental. However, I do not advocate for this perspective since the word "developmetnal" has been steroetyped by so many in a negative way. The argument has been lost among the public and many with the academic world. Therefore, I argue there is no such thing as a "developmental student."

This posting was excerpted and expanded from my recent book, Access at the crossroads: Learning assistance in higher education published by Jossey-Bass/Willey. For more inforamtion about the book, click this link.