Light Moving Through Autonomy
“Learning to use strengths and act on values enriches the society. When students struggle to define their best selves, rather than succumbing to passivity or alienation, they fulfill their own potential and renew the world around them, one corner at a time.” – Chickering 1969; Chickering & Reisser 1993
Autonomy, Interdependence, Oh my!
Moving through Autonomy to Interdependence is Chickering’s (1969) third vector (originally named Developing Autonomy) out of the seven developed vectors (click here to see all seven vectors).
Autonomy “implies mastery of oneself and one’s powers. In addition to becoming free from the dictates and interferences of others, one must also be free from disabling conflicts or contradictions within one’s own personality” (Gibbs, 1979, p. 119). For this to occur a student should be making progress in managing their emotions (see my past blog here about Vector 2 managing emotions). This is needed as students explore and experiment and it sometimes can involve feelings of guilt or anxiety as students let go of old dependencies (when seeking independence from their parents or peers) (Chickering & Reisser, 1993).
As students move through autonomy toward interdependence, three things need attention (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 117):
Students who are new to the university (first-years and sophomores) may indicate more signs of emotional dependence and instrumental dependence especially if the student has not progressed in managing their emotions and if they lack confidence to make self-directed decisions or are fearful to pursue an opportunity.
For example, when interacting with first-year and sophomore students there are a variety of situations a student is finding themselves in where they are needing confidence in their ability socially and intellectually as well as managing their emotions to best navigate these experiences, such as:
Students find themselves in various communities (classrooms, student organization meetings, residence halls, campus recreation facilities, dining halls, etc.) within the larger university community. For those of us working with students our goal is to create environments that best challenge and support them to become independent with a goal of interdependence. We want students to be able to be their true selves within a community, to find their strengths and act on values that contribute to the university community and beyond.
Students who have the ability to find their place within the campus community and see themselves as a committed member are more likely to thrive and be contributors to the overall welfare of the community.
To think about this more deeply, Chickering and Reisser (1993) created questions framed to understand students moving through autonomy toward interdependence by sharing dimensions to assist in better understanding.
The first dimension, venturing, describes students as being open to new experiences, willing to initiate things, and able to confront questions and problems to disagree. The second, self-sufficiency pertains to students’ ability to know how to get help and make good use of available resources. The third, interdependence addresses students’ ability to know their place in community and their personal responsibility to community (Chickering & Reisser, 1993).
Here are excerpted questions from each dimension defined above from Education and Identity (Chickering & Reisser, 1993, p. 119-121 ).
In the chapter titled, Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence, Chickering and Reisser use data from the questions above to explain the third vector in more detail.
We must acknowledge the fact that the above questions were published over 30 years ago.
With that in mind, how do students today who are between the ages of 18-25 (iGen/GenZ) move through autonomy toward interdependence?
Before answering that question, place the question in the context of looking across generations (iGen, Millennial, Gen X, Baby Boomer, Silent).
As times change, we need to consider how moving through autonomy toward interdependence is critical for each generation. However, how one individual might move from being codependent to finding emotional independence, instrumental independence and interdependence will vary by generation (Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Silent).
In a recent blog by the Army & Navy Academy, the author shares a little about the current traditional aged college students who are iGens. The blog describes attributes of the generation and how they are different from previous generations? The blog shares helpful links to recent sources about iGens, check it out!
As a parent of an iGen and being a Generation X/Millennial Cusper myself, it is clear that there are similarities and differences concerning what I might have needed versus what my son or my current college students need today to move through autonomy toward interdependence. .
How will we create communities that give students an opportunity to learn how and to know when to get help (if it is health related, academic program related, student employment related, and so on)?
How will students come to find their true self and find their sense of place in community?
Consider how you might best challenge and support 18-25 year olds in your life who are moving through autonomy toward interdependence.
Contribute to community and develop a student’s light!
“To accept responsibility for your own feelings, your own triggers, and your own experience does not mean to stop communicating with others about how their words and actions affect you. You can own your emotions by not blaming others, and still give the people in your life gentle, loving feedback about how they can treat you in a way that helps your healing and happiness. Creating safe spaces is an interdependent process. It's not ever all about you and it's not ever all about the other person. It's about you coming together and working on the dynamics of your relationship together, taking responsibility for your own part and doing what you can to contribute to the well-being of the other.”
Chickering, A. (1969). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chickering, A., and Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gibbs, B. (1979). Autonomy and authority in education. Journal of Philosophy of Education, 13, 119-132.