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Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students' Inner Lives 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470769331
ISBN-10: 0470769335
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Editorial Reviews


"A groundbreaking study of the spiritual growth of college students.... The spiritual dimension of higher education has been explored from a variety of angles for the past twenty years, but not until now have we had a competent and comprehensive body of data organized around well-defined dimensions of this complex phenomenon. This is an essential book for anyone in academia who cares about the education of the whole person."
Parker J. Palmer, author, The Heart of Higher Education, A Hidden Wholeness, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach

"An extremely important book for layperson and professional alike. A stunning wake-up call for higher education—highly recommended!"
Ken Wilber, author, The Integral Vision

"Cultivating the Spirit makes a unique and important contribution to one of the least examined yet most fundamental questions about undergraduate education: how students acquire the values and convictions that help to give meaning and purpose to their lives.... The authors provide a wealth of valuable findings about this vital process and its effects on student achievement, well-being, and personal growth in college."
Derek Bok, former president, Harvard University, and author, The Politics of Happiness

"The fruit of a decade of elegantly designed and compelling research, Cultivating the Spirit provides timely and significant data for reorienting the conversation about the relationships among intellectual inquiry, traditional academic values, and the formation of the inner life. Informative, clearly written, essential, and evocative reading for today's faculty across all institutions—public and private, secular and religious."
Sharon Daloz Parks, author, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams and Leadership Can Be Taught

From the Inside Flap

This groundbreaking work is based on a five-year study of how students change during the college years and the role college plays in facilitating the development of their spiritual qualities. Students, the authors argue, grapple with the big questions in life: Who am I? What are my values? Do I have a mission in life? Why am I in college? What kind of person do I want to be? What sort of world do I want to help to create? Their answers to these questions help determine their academic and career choices and are tied to the development of personal qualities such as empathy, caring, and social responsibility.

The study finds that, while students' religious engagement declines during college, at the same time they become substantially more caring, tolerant, connected with others, and actively egaged in a spiritual quest. Spiritual growth also enhances academic performance, leadership development, and satisfaction with college. The study provides strong evidence pointing to specific experiences during college that can contribute to students' spiritual growth.

The need for spiritual development in college is apparent. Two-thirds of the students in the study express a strong interest in spiritual matters, well over half report that their professors never encourage discussions of religious or spiritual matters, and about the same proportion report that professors never provide opportunities to discuss the purpose and meaning of life.

Cultivating the Spirit aims to raise the awareness of academic administrators, faculty, and the public at large to the vital role that spirituality plays in student learning and development. Throughout the book, the authors identify strategies for enhancing students' development and encourage the academy to give greater priority to the spiritual aspects of students' educational and personal development.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (November 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470769335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470769331
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is no question that Cultivating the Spirit is another book in a long line of ground breaking research put out by the Astins that will help shape the field of higher education. It is refreshing to see mainstream researchers take on the once taboo subject of spirituality. A book length manuscript allows for a detailed explanation of the concepts they deal with, with some surprising results here and there sprinkled among what might be predicted. For those who know of the Astin's data set, there will be no surprise that they offer an amazingly deep pool of participants to shed light on issues of spirituality and religion among both students and faculty in higher education. They also are highly adept at multivariate statistical modeling, and explaining it, which helps breath life into their findings. One of their findings which raises an eyebrow initially is that students level of religious commitment changes very little during college. This stands in contrast to many findings of the past, and popular presumption that there is a fade away from religious commitment during the college years. Upon further inspection though, the items used to measure religious commitment talk about gaining spiritual strength, and ask about spiritual/religious beliefs. This raises the point about whether this construct is really measuring religion or spirituality. It struck me that future iterations of their work could benefit from a more precise operational definition and more distinct differentiation between religion and spirituality. That said, I found the book worthwhile and believe that it should be on the shelf of all of us who care about the spiritual development of college students.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 2007 former Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman published a book entitled EDUCATION'S END: WHY OUR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES HAVE GIVEN UP ON THE MEANING OF LIFE. Basically, Dean Kronman discusses the abandonment of `big questions' and the classic curriculum which addressed such questions. At the same time, Professor Astin and his UCLA colleagues were studying the manner in which college can actually enhance the addressing of these questions and the development of what he terms students' `inner lives'. The result of their study is CULTIVATING THE SPIRIT.

While the books share similar concerns, broadly speaking, they could not be more different in their execution. Kronman's book is an extended meditation, a blend of personal, cultural and intellectual history. Astin's book is survey-based social science.

There is a joking injunction in the university that `thou shalt not commit a social science'. Astin has been committing them for years and his research institute is one of the most important in the country. His methods are judicious and as `reliable' as one might wish. In this study he examines the experience of a multiplicity of students from a large number of diverse institutions. He takes snapshots and he develops longitudinal data. He explores his conclusions at great length and he deploys his methodology in great detail.

There is only one problem: very, very few of the conclusions are counterintuitive. In the course of their college experience students tend to become slightly more spiritual but slightly less religious. They are more likely to explore ultimate questions if they major in English than if they major in Business. They are likely to be more caring if they study in the school of Nursing or Health Professions.
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Throughout my 14 years in education as a teacher, researcher, professional development trainer, consultant and now college instructor, I have always known that there is a need to help cultivate the inner dimension of the human being through education. However, that conversation has not really come to the surface until now--thanks to ground breaking research like this study and others that are now emerging.

This research has had a profound ripple effect in my experience.

After reading this book, I began creating spaces in my classrooms where conversations around meaning and purpose were possible and the response from my college students has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, students from two of my classes wanted to stay together in order to continue our meaningful dialogues, which we've been doing.

Our little group has now turned into a growing community of students and teachers that gather together to have authentic conversations around topics that help cultivate the inner dimensions of the human being. It's been an absolutely amazing experience. I am literally in awe as I witness the unfolding (here is our community site by the way, if you'd like to see the ripple effect that is emerging from putting into practice some of the suggestions and findings from this study: [...]

When I began reading this book I had no idea that what is now emerging with my students was even possible... I am so incredibly inspired and deeply grateful for these highly respected scholars, and others in the field of holistic education, whose research supports us in making a mighty mighty difference.
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