This is Part II (two) 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 II)
by Adam Goodwin | 2013 | Posted: November 19, 2013 | Last Updated: November 19, 2013
I am writing a series of blog posts on student success from the lens of a student services/student affairs professional. For the introductory article (i.e., Part I (one)), read my blog post titled, Student Services – A Journey (Part I) (click here, to read).
In this blog post we will be concentrating on the academic achievement pillar (as discussed in Part I).
One of the pillars of student success is academic achievement. What is academic achievement? It depends who you ask.
Speaking with students at my current European-based institution, some of the ideas the students discussed included:
- Learning and getting more out of my classes than a good mark (i.e., learning vs. marks/grades); and
- Creating a good foundation of facts and knowledge that will help me in my future.
In comparison, much of the literature surrounding academic achievement and student success discusses academic achievement as being about grades/marks and GPA (grade-point average).
Why are researchers discussing grades/marks, yet students discuss learning and a higher purpose out of their academics than just a subjective final grade letter?
This may point to a change that is already turning into a tidal wave at many universities around the world. Universities are very slow-changing institutions of society and knowledge. They do not change quickly. This has its pros and cons I will leave to a someone with more insight into this area. So, why now, is there a push for change to come quickly?
Students are asking for it. This generation of students is much more smart than the last generation. The next generation will be more intelligent than this generation (in many ways, not all). This generation understands how subjective and ambigious a university grade mark is in a course. This generation understands how a university’s goal is to develop critical thinking, civic engagement, and global citizenship, yet marks are based on one’s ability to remember very specific facts and figures a professor deems to be important. This generation understands that the university’s way to evaluate students is not lined up with the university’s vision of its students.
I think this is one reason there is massive disconnect between what students see as academic achievement and how the research discusses and expands its knowledge on academic achievement. This isn’t to say grades don’t have a role in education. They are just one tool of many available, not THE tool. Researchers are reflecting the current state of the university landscape (i.e., grades/marks/GPA), whereas students are asking for something that is much bigger-picture and gets at the heart of university’s roles: learning and expanding knowledge (in either one’s self, communities, a subject, or society).
There are many impacts on one’s ability to achieve academically. These include, but are not related to: race, ethnicity, gender, sex, age, first generation in family to attend post-secondary, economics/finances, health (inclusing physical, mental, social, and spiritual), social support and safety nets, previous academic achievement, alcohol consumption, coping mechanisms, and motivation and effort.
How does academic achievement affect the role of student affairs professionals and departments at universities?
Student affairs professionals and portfolios must ensure universities are meeting the social, physical, spiritual, mental, and fundamental needs of all students. They must ensure an environment is presented and available to students to allow students to learn, develop, and socialize. Student affairs professionals must continue to push universities to focus on learning instead of teaching. To bring a deep and fundamental understanding to their institutions that one can not teach someone something (per se); that one can present ideas, knowledge, and facts, and create a supportive environment that allows others to learn.
If students understand academic achievement as learning rather than grades/marks/GPA, student affairs portfolios need to bring this message to all areas and facets of their universities.
In my day-to-day actions and behaviours as a student affairs professional in Europe, I hope to speak about being a facilitator of supportive environments and learning rather than teaching. I hope to ensure each and every student has their basic needs (air, food, water, sleep, friendship, self-esteem, confidence, respect) met and taken care of so they instead have a safe and welcoming place where they can focus on learning, being creative, socializing, exploring and expanding knowledge, and having fun.
A Call to Action
Do you have any ideas/thoughts/insights to add? Comment below to join the conversation!
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
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.