Chickering’s Developmental Vectors and Educationally Influential Environments

Brief Overview

Arthur Chickering’s Seven Vectors theorize the “tasks” that students must go through while developing their identity.

About the Author

Dr. Author Chickering is the creator of the seven vectors used to theories the tasks student go through while developing their identity in college.

For more information on Chickering, click here.

Printable Summary (PDF)

Previous cohorts of FSU students have developed these printable summaries and used them to prepare for test and papers.  We hope they’ll be of help to you too.


Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory:  The Seven Vectors

      • Developing Competence 
        • An individual develops within intellectual, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competencies.
        • Intellectual Competence is characterized by ability to use reasoning and critical thinking skills
        • Physical and Manual Competence is characterized by involvement and attention to wellness, artistic, and athletic activities
        • Interpersonal Competence is characterized by the ability to communicate and work well with others
      • Managing Emotions 
        • An individual becomes competent in his or her ability to recognize and manage emotions
        • Incorporation of all emotions and an individual’s ability to reasonably manage his or her reactions to events
      • Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence 
        • An individual develops ability to have an independent outlook on life but understand successful relationships are based on an interdependence
      • Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships
        • An individual develops intercultural relations, appreciation for others, and tolerance for those around them
        • Reisser (1995) indicates this vector indicates one’s ability to accept others, respect differences, and appreciate commonalities
      • Establishing Identity
        • Individual processes through his or her identity to emerge with a healthy self-concept in all facets of identity
      • Developing Purpose
        • An individual has a strong outlook on professional life, makes meaning within his or her own interests, and establishes positive relationships with others
      • Developing Integrity
        • An individual is able to articulate and emulate his or her own values affirmed as an individual through three stages: humanizing values, personalizing values, and developing congruence
Application of Theory to Practice

Olshak, R. (August 2008). A guide for effective sanctioning: From theory to practice. Illinois State University. Retrieved from

Specifically, from Page 18:

(Students that have broken a university policy are required to attend an educational sanctioning seminar that is made up of various discussion activities.)

A Conduct Hearing Officer select one of three student development theories to utilize for an open discussion during an educational sanctioning seminar. The three theories to select from are: Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development (Chickering & Reisser, 1993), Perry’s Theory of Intellectual and Ethical Development (Perry, 1981) or Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development (Kohlberg, 1976). The student participants are broken up into groups of five people each. The Conduct Hearing Officer facilitating the conversation describes the theories and asks the students to establish a list of behaviors that would be indicative a students’ challenge or struggle with each developmental stage of the theory. Next the students will be asked to share their answer with the group. They must select one of the behaviors and as a group write an incident report based on a real-life scenario for discussion. Next, each group should write a list of five to ten questions that would then be asked to the (alleged) student from the incident report. These questions are meant to engage students in a discussion of how this impacted the student’s learning and how each of the developmental issues in the questions were addressed. This sanction is intended to have students engage critically with their thought processes and challenge their current moral reasoning.

Submitted by Nicole DiBartolo


Annotations of Associated Literature

Students have provided information to assist you in learning more about the theory.


Original Citation

Chickering, A. W. (1969). Education and identity. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Additional Resources

This two YouTube video highlights the seven vectors of Chickering’s Theory.

Submitted by Jesse Ford

This page was written and created by Ashlie Baty. Please use the comment section below to ask questions, provide reflection, discussion and/or feedback. To contact directly about this page, please see Ashlie Baty at