Research by social scientists verifies what most of us have observed, that many students enter college with one set of beliefs and emerge four years later with quite different ones. Yet the same literature shows that formal academic life usually has little or no effect on value change, though parents, legislators, and even many professors themselves think otherwise.
Philip Jacob published the results of some painstaking research on this subject in Changing Values in College (1957). He concluded that the teacher, his teaching method, and the subject matter all have little if any effect on student value and attitude change. Change usually occurs, he says, only when the life of the student is affected, which could happen through personal contact with a professor or other students or through other experiences.
Joseph Katz and Nevitt Sanford, at the Stanford University Institute for the Study of Human Problems, agree with the basic premise Jacob set forth more than a decade ago. They assert that students probably do not change their basic values because of the formal educational experience, but they do undergo change in the way they value; they begin college with values either unclear or rigid, and as seniors are increasingly independent and less rigid, tending to view issues as complex (Stanford Today, Winter, 1966). Other researchers as well argue that faculty and subject matter have little to do with value change.
To what are we to attribute the change seen in college students? Researchers suggest that value change only comes through personal relationships, in what might be called the informal educational process.
These conclusions are of value in relation to the change in religious values and attitudes—a change that might be ...1
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