Institutional Research + Positive Classroom Climate

SP2012 had me starting another educational adventure – a graduate certificate in institutional research through PSU’s WorldCampus – I continue to hope that I’ll someday be able to cobble all of this together into an EdD at some point… sigh… wish they would awaken to the need for professionals at the campuses to continue to be professionally developed and offer EdDs thru WC… but that’s another story…

So the first course I jump into  is Assessing Programs and Student Outcomes with Drs. Fred Volkwein (PSU Higher Ed) and Ying Zhou (George Mason) and it is fabulous!! Puts me squarely in place to answer many burning questions that are being asked on our campus now… like accreditation, positive classroom climate (NSSE data), GenEds, program assessment (engineering), attainment in the majors, alumni surveys, etc…

It is tremendously challenging – I had to review my old stats knowledge, learn to use the stat package SPSS to do some simple analyses – t-tests, ANOVA, etc., gain familiarity with the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), take the IRB training through PSU, learn about PSU’s GenEds and write a report using data from NSSE on student outcomes in the GenEds, learn research models on student outcomes, and create an assessment plan for my campus. It has been thrilling and challenging – good to get back into the saddle of learning something challenging. Excellent that I could also put it to good use here right away.

The campus began (in the fall) to look at academic and student issues related to classroom interactions. Some anecdotal stories started to surface about some bad classroom practices which got faculty pretty riled up. This really got me thinking seriously about the IR certificate – b/c it bothered me that people were reacting (and possibly acting) based on narratives that may tell part of the story -  but we didn’t know where the data came from – how many people it represented, etc! We needed a full story and data could help us to tell it, and make good decisions based on it. So I started the program.

When we got to the point of using NSSE data (to measure GenEd outcomes), I asked to use our campus data rather than the course sample data. Once I started getting into that, I realized that much of this could be used also to respond to the issues that were raised in the fall meeting. I started to pull the information from the NSSE analysis from our survey data in SP 2011, and I put together a presentation for faculty tying together research on student outcomes and our local data.

At the same time, the Faculty Senate Chair and I were working on a campus-wide forum to present the data and research (abbreviated from the previous session + more data from a recent HDFS student survey and faculty input via a Google survey) and then a process to help the faculty to start to articulate a vision statement of life in the classroom. This went off well! They watched the presentation, got into work groups, identified key characteristics of a positive classroom climate, then started working on a vision statement and things they felt they would need to make it a reality.

The Chair and I met afterwards to tally the group work. We came up with a graphic representation of the elements and now this will go to the units for further clarification and definition of terms – then back to the appropriate committee for vetting and from THAT we can start to build a improvement process that allows us to make changes, measure the results and track our progress toward the vision.

I felt so gratified to be part of this effort – something that impacts people every day – and felt the timing was just incredible – to be taking this course at just the time when I could put it to good use! I have learned so much, but realize I have so much farther to go!

Summer is enrollment management course :)

I’ve also been building some connections within PSU’s IR community – they have an IR interest group that meets periodically – and there are some campuses with IR groups – so I look forward to working more with them to continue to learn about this fascinating and important topic.

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