The student’s peer group is the single most potent source of influence on growth and development during the undergraduate years (Astin, 1993).
In Weidman’s model of undergraduate socialization, interaction with peers can expose students to normative pressures that will influence students’ socialization outcomes (Weidman, 1989).
This paper will synthesize the affect of interaction with peers on college student development in the 8 areas categorized by Pascarella and Terenzini (2005).
1. DEVELOPMENT OF VERBAL, QUANTITATIVE AND SUBJECT MATTER COMPETENCE
the development of verbal, quantitative and subject matter competence is influenced by students’ involvement in activities related to interactions with peers, such as small-group learning, learning communities, extracurricular activities, and so on. The more the nature of students’ interaction with peers is related to academic program, the more is the development of verbal, quantitative and subject matter competence.
2. COGNITIVE SKILLS AND INTELLECTUAL GROWTH
we can conclude that interaction with peers that can extend and reinforce broad ideas and confront students with diverse interests and values, either in or out of class, will have positive influence on students’ cognitive skills and intellectual growth.
in addition to in-class activities, students’ peers sometimes have greater influences than in-class experiences on cognitive skills and intellectual growth (. ... Students’ self-reports of their cognitive skills or intellectual growth were also significantly, positively influenced by interaction with peers outside of class.
However, a small amount of research concluded that participation in some extracurricular activities, such as Greek affiliation, would have negative effects on critical thinking (Pascarella, Edison, Whitt, Nora, Hagedorn & Terenzini, 1996); but, due to analyzing only based on a single sample, this conclusion still needs to be proved based on more evidence.
3. PSYCHOSOCIAL CHANGE
students’ interaction with peers plays a central role in how students thinking about themselves, and is the dominant force on general personal development. Interaction with peers of diversified interests, races, and backgrounds have the potential to stimulate reflection on students’ knowledge and currently held beliefs and values and, perhaps, lead to new ways of thinking about and understanding the world, the other peers, and themselves
4. DEVELOPMENT OF ATTITUDES AND VALUES
peer context has positive net effects on students’ attitudes and values in various aspects. Interaction with peers more frequently can help student development in attitudes and values. Peers of diverse races, culture, or gender can reinforce the development.
5. MORAL DEVELOPMENT
in- or out-of-class interaction with peers will influence moral development. Interaction with peers of different ideas, values, and experiences can help moral development.
6. DEVELOPING EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT AND PERSISTENCE
peers’ influence is a significant and positive force in students’ persistence decisions. The extent and quality of students’ interaction with peers were particularly influential on students’ educational attainment and persistence.
Pascarella, Wolniak and Pierson (2003) suggested that the educational aspiration of peers was a significant factor influencing persistence behavior.
7.CAREER AND ECONOMIC RETURNS
involvement in activities related to interaction with peers will affect students’ career choice and career-related skills. However, although consistent evidence can be found that interaction with peers had effects on students’ career, there is no consistent evidence of the impact on economic returns.
8. QUALITY OF LIFE AFTER COLLEGE
except the impact on drinking behaviors and involvement in community service activities after college, there is still lack of clear evidence of the impact of interaction with peers on a student’s quality of life after college.
confirmed by Chickering and Reisser (1993, p.275), “When students are encouraged to form friendships and to participate in communities that become meaningful subcultures, and when diversity of backgrounds and attitudes as well as significant interchanges and shared interests exist, development along all seven vectors is fostered.”