In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Student Learning, Development, Engagement, and Motivation in Higher Education

  • Introduction
  • Prominent Organizations

Education Student Learning, Development, Engagement, and Motivation in Higher Education
Luke K. Fryer, Soyoung Lee, Alex Shum
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0246


Student learning and development in higher education is a broad topic. While learning and development are certainly related components of the university experience, researchers have generally focused on one or the other, thus creating two research streams that rarely converge. In student development, there are at least three long-established bodies of American research with origins in addressing university student attrition, development of epistemological beliefs, and personal development. Astin and Tinto’s ideas, while recently less often researched as distinct models, have been integrated into widely adopted concepts of engagement in higher education. American conceptions of engagement in higher education resulted in a national approach to quality assurance that has spread to Australia, China, and the United Kingdom. In student learning, there are at least three distinct models building, in part, on seminal cognitive processing and meta-cognitive processing research. One of these is an early cognitive processing–oriented model developed with adult learners, which came to be referred to as approaches to learning, its corollary learning environment research and related learning patterns research. Growing in salience during the same period and enclosed within the expanding area of meta-cognitive research, is the broad body of self-regulation research. In North America, this research grew from socio-cognitive theory or from learning strategies research. In Europe a wealth of starting points and models emerged. The final, and most recent model, building on twin platforms of motivational and cognitive processing research, is the Model of Domain Learning (MDL). Unlike the student development (North America–centered) research, the three models for understanding student learning during higher education have seen scant integration and only recent initial efforts at comparison and contrast. As a result, we presently have three distinct camps of research each examining the higher education experience from slightly different angles, each thereby yielding three perspectives that have yet to meaningfully learn from each other. Integration and cross-examination of these theories would help strengthen overall understanding of student learning and development. This article begins by presenting important academic journals and organizations that have emerged since the 1970s within the fields of student learning and development. The essential models addressing development and learning in higher education are each reviewed briefly, presenting and discussing the research that has shaped them. Motivation and beliefs for learning during higher education are included as a supplement for these models and important future directions for research.


The number of higher education journals has increased rapidly during the past two decades. The following list is not comprehensive but instead seeks to present the dominant generalist outlets both within and resulting from learning and development within higher education.

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