Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students' Inner Lives
November 2010, Jossey-Bass
The book defines "spiritual development" very broadly: how students make meaning of their education and their lives, how they develop a sense of purpose, the value and belief dilemmas that they experience, as well as the role of religion, the sacred, and the mystical in their lives. Each student, of course, will view his or her spirituality in a unique way. For many, traditional religious beliefs and practices may form the core of their spirituality; for others such beliefs and practices may play little or no part. While 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/spiritual matters, and about the same proportion report that professors never provide opportunities to discuss the purpose and meaning of life.
By raising public awareness of the important role that spirituality plays in student learning and development, by alerting academic administrators, faculty, and curriculum committees to the importance of spiritual development, and by identifying possible strategies for enhancing that development, the book will encourage institutions to give greater priority to these spiritual aspects of students’ educational and personal development.
1 Why Spirituality Matters.
2 Assessing Spiritual and Religious Qualities.
3 Spiritual Quest: The Search for Meaning and Purpose.
5 Spirituality in Practice: Caring For and About Others.
6 The Religious Life of College Students.
7 Religious Struggle and Skepticism.
8 How Spiritual Growth Affects Educational and Personal Development.
9 Higher Education and the Life of the Spirit.
Appendix: Study Methodology.
Helen S. Astin is Distinguished Professor emerita of Higher Education and senior scholar in the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Jennifer A. Lindholm is special assistant to the vice provost for undergraduate education at the University of California at Los Angeles and director of the Spirituality in Higher Education project.
—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
—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
—Sharon Daloz Parks, author, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams and Leadership Can Be Taught
Researchers Find College Students’ Spirituality Associated with Academic Growth and Satisfaction with College
Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives details the need for Academia to “attend more to students’ spiritual development”
LOS ANGELES , CA– Researchers from UCLA’s Spirituality in Higher Education project have found that spiritual growth in college students enhances academic outcomes such as scholastic performance, psychological well-being, leadership development and satisfaction with college. Cultivating the Spirit: How College Can Enhance Students’ Inner Lives, written by Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin and Jennifer A. Lindholm, is the first national longitudinal study of students’ spiritual growth. The book’s research represents a national study of college students’ search for meaning and purpose.
For example, compared to students whose equanimity declines during college, those whose equanimity increases have a 50% better chance of earning at least a B+ average. Similarly, students whose Equanimity increases during college, compared to those whose Equanimity declines, are nearly three times more likely to end up being “very satisfied” with their college experience.
“We believe that the findings provide a powerful argument that higher education should attend more to students’ spiritual development,” stated co-author Alexander Astin. “Spiritual development is not only an important part of the college experience in its own right, but also promotes other positive outcomes of college.”
The seven-year research study examined how students’ religious and spiritual views change during the college years and the role that college plays in facilitating the development of their spiritual and religious qualities. The study surveyed 112,000 freshmen as they enrolled in 236 colleges and universities and then followed up with 14,527 of these students as they completed their junior year at 136 colleges.
Some of the findings include:
- Religious engagement among students declines somewhat during college, but their spirituality shows substantial growth. Students become more caring, more tolerant and more connected with others as well as more actively engaged in a spiritual quest.
- College activities contribute to students' spiritual growth. Some of these--study abroad, interdisciplinary studies. interracial interaction, and service learning--appear to be effective because they expose students to new and diverse people, cultures and ideas.
- Spiritual development is enhanced if students engage in "inner work" through activities such as meditation or self-reflection, or if their professors actively encourage them to explore questions of meaning and purpose. Spiritual development is impeded when students engage in activities that distract them from campus life opportunities--activities such as watching television and playing video games.
The seven-year study detailed in Cultivating the Spirit was funded through two generous grants from the John Templeton Foundation. The surveys were conducted as part of the Higher Education Research Institute’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program, the nation’s oldest and largest study of higher education.
- Interviews with Alexander Astin, Helen Astin and Jennifer Lindholm can be arranged by contacting Charles Martin at 202.667.0901 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Research methodology can be found at http://spirituality.ucla.edu/background/methodology/
- Purchase book at www.josseybass.com/highereducation or Amazon.com
About Spirituality in Higher Education