Augie Choice – participation in the big three

Over the last several years, Augustana has increasingly encouraged students to participate in an internship, study abroad, or undergraduate research.  As a result, our participation rates have increased and more of our students are gaining the benefits of these potentially powerful learning experiences. Yet while we track the participation rates for each of these educational experiences separately, we haven’t talked as much about the degree to which students who participate in any one of these experiences actually participate in multiple experiences, thereby making the total percentage of students who engage in any of these experiences substantively lower than we might like to think.   In addition, we have not yet thought as much about how to systematically ensure that each student engages in the kind of experiential learning that best fits their educational needs and goals.

To get a better handle on these questions, I looked at the senior survey data from the spring of 2008 and 2009.  For context purposes, here are the separate participation rates for study abroad, internships, and undergraduate research (just to clarify, undergraduate research is defined as working with a faculty member on a research project).

  • Study abroad                                     39.5%
  • Internships                                         44.1%
  • Undergraduate Research                  16.6%

However, it is clear that there are quite a few students engaged in multiple activities.  So, after re-examining the data, here is the percentage of students who did or did not participate in at least one of these activities.

  • Students who participated in at least one activity:                          67%
  • Students who did not participate in any activities:                          33%

Thus, while a majority of our students are gaining the benefits of one of these “high impact activities,” a substantial proportion of them are not.

While there might be many varied and valid reasons for the 33% who did not participate in any of these activities, I’d like to highlight one difference between those who did and did not participate for you to ponder – the relative proportion of men and women in each group.  Again, for context, in this dataset 58.8% of the respondents were female and 41.2% were male.

Among those who participated in at least one activity, 64.7% were female and 35.3% were male.

Among those who did not participate in any of these activities, 47% were female and 53% were male.

Is this participation gap a reason for concern?  If so, what could we do about it?

Make it a good day,


What is so delicious about ambiguity?

Welcome to a new academic year!  For those of you who have been away, it’s great to see you again.  For those of you who are new to Augustana, I look forward to getting to know you and supporting your educational efforts.

As many of you know by now, my primary focus at Augustana is to facilitate the continuous process of improving student learning. This means that, like most of us, I can be found wearing many different hats.  Sometimes you will find me designing and implementing on-campus studies to gather data that we need.  Sometimes you might find me discussing the findings from our data and the implications of those findings.  And other times you might find me collaborating with a wide range of individuals or groups to design policies, programs, or professional development to ensure that our efforts to improve student learning actually bear fruit.

So why am I also writing a weekly column in the Faculty Newsletter?

During the last year, I was struck by the degree to which many of us actually don’t know about the things we do really well.  As a result, it appeared to me that we often missed opportunities to take maximal advantage of these successes.  Sometimes these “successes” were happening only in isolated instances.   Other times these educational strengths were occurring repeatedly but without much connection to other similar and often complimentary successes.  And sometimes these successes were totally coincidental.

With this in mind, I hope this column will help us learn a lot more about ourselves, our students, the relative impact of our educational efforts, and the ways that we might improve in this collective endeavor. Sometimes I’ll share a nugget of data or information that struck me as interesting.  Sometimes I’ll pose a question that I think might help us be more intentional in what we do. Finally, from time to time I will take a specific belief or claim about some aspect of student learning at Augustana College and put it to the test.

I am not promising truth, justice, or beauty.  However, I am promising that I will try to inspire you to think more deeply about our students, our efforts, and our collective investment in this work.  I also hope that these columns will inspire conversations that lead to additional questions and, ideally, to a deeper understanding of the work that we do.

So – what would you like to know?  What ‘myth’ or claim would you like to see me put to the test (be careful what you wish for!)?  And what should I call this column?

Make it a good day,