Student Services – A Journey (Part I)

This is Part I (one) of a series of blog posts I will be writing on exploring and going through the journey of student services and student affairs land. The focus of these blog post series will be exploring the world of what it means to be a successful student (besides an A+ average), and success, in general (i.e., not money nor job titles). For links to the other articles in this series of blog posts, scroll to the bottom of this blog post.

Student Services – A Journey (Part I)

by Adam Goodwin | 2013 | Posted: November 3, 2013 | Last Updated: November 15, 2013

Background

I am writing a series of blog posts on student success from the lens of a student services/student affairs professional. This is the introductory article (i.e., Part I (one)) to the series of blog posts on this topic.

In this blog post we will be concentrating on introducing the concept of both student services/affairs and student success.

Higher Education

The longer I spend in the higher education system (i.e., universities/colleges/post-secondary institutions), the more I realize how complex and interesting these organizations are, can be, and will be.  Across the world, universities spend considerable amount of resources (personnel, money, travel, time) to recruit students – with the promise of a unique program, or learning opportunity, or personal growth.  Yet, for how much these institutions spend on recruitment, millions of students each year drop out of university.  This can have huge economic impact on the university, and huge emotional and mental consequences for the individual student.

Departure after first year (even after the first semester) seems to be the most common time to leave.  Many either realize university is more than exploring freedoms and social experiences with new peers, and aren’t ready for academic life.  Others may drop out due to personal reasons.  And the list of factors and reasons can go on and on.

I began wondering why this happens.  What differentiates between a ‘successful’ student (stays in school until graduation) and a not-as-successful student.  Without missing a beat, I knew it had nothing to do with grades/marks.  Not to say marks/grades don’t have a place in higher education.  Just that, today, there is way too much of an emphasis placed on marks and “teaching” to tests/exams rather than learning.

Alas, back to student success.  I began reading some of the research literature surrounding student success. I came across an interesting article by Seifert & Burrow (2013).  In the article, they laid out a foundation for student success.

Student Succcess Framework

Seifert & Burrow (2013) argue that student success isn’t just one result, or one outcome.  It is a series of factors and aspects of student life that impact student success.  They concentrate on the process of how to have successful students, rather than a definition of student success (i.e., they see student success as a process rather than as a result or outcome).

The pillars of student success they argue, include:

  1. Academic achievement;
  2. Engagement in purposeful activities;
  3. Satisfaction;
  4. Acquirement of knowledge and skills;
  5. Persistence;
  6. Educational attainment; and
  7. Post-grad performance.

What I wanted to do with this information, was to take this information, the framework and some of the ideas, and see what university students think.  This is not a scientific study, using scientific methods (e.g., sampling, response coding, etc).  It is informal ideas from students to try and gain a slightly better understanding of what they think and believe.  I have condensed some of the comments.  There were multiple similar responses in many instances so I have done my best to consolidate these, where appropriate.

Academic Achievement

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Ugh | Learning and getting something out of it rather than marks | Learning vs. grades | Surviving mid-terms! | Getting a foundation of facts and understanding so can use in rest of life

Engagement in Purposeful Activities

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Being involved | Study groups | Exploring | Learning to learn | Be curious about the world and society

Satisfaction

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Social events | Internal motivation | Feedback | Fun nights | Chilling | Mental growth | Full effort | Encouragement | Reflection | Friends | Fun projects where get to work in the community or on real issues/problems/challenges

Acquirement of Knowledge and Skills

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Difficult conversation (e.g., roommates) | Social skills (e.g., friends, conversations) | Leadership | General knowledge

Persistence

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Effort | Problem solving | End goals

Educational Attainment

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Use first year as a foundation for rest of degree | The degree | Learning | Opening my mind

Post-Grad Performance

Some of the key (or at least, entertaining) responses: Resume | Cover letter | Prep for Masters | Job prospects | Strengths and Weaknesses | Job/volunteer experience

My Thoughts

What I really enjoyed from my many mini and informal conversations, was hearing how much this generation of university students don’t focus solely on grades.  For most, grades are still important – likely, even more so for those wishing to go onto graduate school.  Yet, this is not where their sole focus lies.  Many want to use university to explore different things – for instance, new friends, new hobbies (e.g., perhaps go to the gym for the first time), traveling alonel; etc.

I think this is a major shift we will see in future generations over the next few generations.  Asking the system to change and improve to meet the individual needs of each student rather than using standardized testing and ‘learning’ methods.

Next Steps

Over the next few weeks/months, I will further break down each of these seven pillars as laid out by Seifert & Burrow (2013) et al (and others).  As I further explore a pillar, I will try to engage other students, student leaders, and colleagues and peers in conversation about the particular pillar to gain different perspectives and ideas.

Your Call To Action

Are you a student services/student affairs professional?  Have your own thoughts or ideas to add?  Comment below or engage on social media!

We must start to re-look at what the word success even means.  Today, society equates money (“rich”) and job titles with happiness and success.  Instead, we must see success as specific to each individual: has this person done everything possible, given their current state and abilities, to try and reach their absolute full potential, given that their full potential will differ from situation-to-situation, and day-to-day.  For example, if a student’s dog died the morning of a final exam and they scored a 75% on the final exam, I would say this is pretty successful given their emotional state (and the strong link research shows between one’s emotions and ability to perform highly at mental functions).  Others, would see this as not successful as the student didn’t receive 90% or higher.  And who knows, perhaps this student had a 59% average going into this final exam…

Until next time, wish me luck as I explore the fascinating world of universities, student services, and student success on my journey through the United Kingdom over the next year.

To Read the Series of Blog Posts

To read this series of blog posts, click on these following links (open in new tabs):

Part I (one): The Introduction | Part II (two): Academic Achievement | Part III (three): Purposeful Activities | Part IV (four): Satisfaction | Part V (five): Knowledge & Skills | Part VI (six): Persistence | Part VII (seven): Educational Attainment | Part VIII (eight): Post-grad Performance | Part IX (nine): Concluding Remarks

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These are one person’s thoughts and opinions.  I welcome and strive to get your feedback and own thoughts. Feel free to comment below or connect with me via social media.

Adam Goodwin is a Canadian working in the United Kingdom, and is a proud shameless idealist. His parents currently work in Cairo, Egypt. He has siblings and distant family in Canada and around the rainbow nation’s only home. Follow his year+ overseas on Twitter (@adam13goodwin) and on this blog

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