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Description: If you have been anywhere near a post-secondary education institution in the past 10 years you cannot have missed overhearing discussions or seeing programs aimed at or investigating student engagement – as in, student engagement in the institute, college or university and/or in their studies. It is considered so important that it is measured internationally using a survey called the NSSE (National Survey of Student Engagement) which regularly surveys students at the end of their first year at college or university and again at the end of their 4 year degree programs and asks, among a great number of other questions, things like if you had tit to do over again (go to the college or University you went to) would you? Colleges and Universities live and die by their NSSE ratings and there are many many initiatives, orientations, and programs launched with the main purpose of increasing student engagement and thus institutional NSSE scores. I, personally, think that a lot of the things that are done in the name of student engagement are likely helpful for students working their way not only through their chosen educational instruction but, more importantly, along their own developmental journey. I also think, however, that a great many concepts, theories and not particularly clear ideas have been rolled into these, sometime frenzied actions around student engagement. I mean, here is a question; “What does (educational) engagement mean to you (as a student)?” If you think about it, I bet words like “connection” or “connected” or feeling like having what you do and how you do it “matter” will be part of how you respond to that general question. The researchers who conducted the studies described in the research article linked below began with what seem to me to be a very sensible, if rarely considered in the engagement research, domain premise that it might be a good idea to ask actual students what they see as being involved in feeling connected to their educational institutions and, by extension, to their own ongoing educational and evelopmental processes. So, think a bit more about what it might mean to feel connected to your educational experience and your school and then go and have a look at the research article linked below. Now the article is a bit thick (academic) in spots but basically what they did was ask a bunch of students what being connected meant to them (study 1) and then looked to see if they could capture what they heard in the form of a series of survey questions. So, read as much or as little of the article as your interest level dictates. At a minimum, have a look through the initial introduction to see what research HAS been done already under the engagement banner and then read the results sections for each study to get a sense of what they found then read the last bit of the paper where they tell you what they think it all means.

Source: College Connectedness: The Student Perspective, see full reference in the reference list below.

Date: November 11, 2018

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So, did you see anything interesting? … anything that reflected or spoke to your own post-secondary experiences? Clearly feeling connected to a college or university is about feeling cone ted to the people there. These play out through student connectedness, faculty connectedness, and connectedness with old friends, new friends and diverse friends. All of this reflects the basics of the identity formation process: reflecting on where you have come from, where you are currently, and where you could or might go from there into the future. Connectedness, unlike larger, vaguer notions of engagement IS personal. I will be interested to see where this line of research goes from here and if you are currently at college or university notice your connections and notice which of them make you feel like you matter because they are the important ones.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What might it mean to say that students are engaged in their college or university?
  2. What does the concept of connectedness do for us that the concept of engagement does not?
  3. What does thinking in terms of connectedness do for you and for you own thoughts and feeling about how things are going for you at college or university?

References (Read Further):

Jorgenson, D. A., Farrell, L. C., Fudge, J. L., & Pritchard, A. (2018). College Connectedness: The Student Perspective. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 18(1), 75-95.

Schwartz, S. E., Kanchewa, S. S., Rhodes, J. E., Gowdy, G., Stark, A. M., Horn, J. P., … & Spencer, R. (2018). “I’m Having a Little Struggle With This, Can You Help Me Out?”: Examining Impacts and Processes of a Social Capital Intervention for First‐Generation College Students. American journal of community psychology, 61(1-2), 166-178.

Pascarella, E. T., Seifert, T. A., & Blaich, C. (2010). How effective are the NSSE benchmarks in predicting important educational outcomes?. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 42(1), 16-22.

Gordon, J., Ludlum, J., & Hoey, J. J. (2008). Validating NSSE against student outcomes: Are they related?. Research in Higher Education, 49(1), 19-39.

McCormick, A. C., Gonyea, R. M., & Kinzie, J. (2013). Refreshing engagement: NSSE at 13. Change: The magazine of higher learning, 45(3), 6-15.