The Digital Humanities have a distinctive bearing on traditional pedagogical theories. This comes as no surprise. However, one specific theory, one that serves as a kind of amalgam of others while adding a crucial component, benefits from sharing the same general philosophy behind many of the DH community’s endeavors. Alexander W. Astin’s 1984 article, “Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory for Higher Education” places student involvement with educational materials, institutions, and educators before teaching technique and approaches like the “black box,” or subject-matter theory. It is this “involvement” that has changed since Astin’s article was first published, and as DHers understand, these changes must be adapted to promote academia.
Astin’s simplistic theory is comprised of total, or as close as a student can realistically become, immersion in the collegiate, if not academic, life. The Theory of Student Involvement sees “student effort and investment of energy” as aspects that must be fostered by engaging students in learning (Astin 522). The traditional pedagogical theories of finding the right material to spark interest, or tailoring an education to fit students’ needs, all have inherent flaws. While Astin cites living on-campus and extracurricular activities as steps toward gaining students’ full involvement, internet technology adds another social level to the college experience that educators need to take advantage of. Astin states that “boredom…implying a lack of involvement” is a common reason given for dropping out of college (524). While this may be part of a student’s make-up, or due to simple disinterest in a certain discipline, the traditional ‘lecture’ approach has to claim some of the blame, especially in the information age where everything moves at the speed of thought.
The Theory of Student Involvement is not complex by any means: students that immerse themselves in all a college or university has to offer become more invested in their own educations and are more likely to complete their degrees. According to Astin, contact with the university, be it with professors, classmates, or other officials is directly related to student success. This immersion in response to boredom or tired pedagogy shares the spirit of the Digital Humanities: creating or piquing the interest of the fully connected modern student.
Astin, Alexander W. “Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory for Higher Education.” Journal of College Student Development 40.5 (1999): 518-529. Print.