Show of hands: how many of us think our schools, departments, and services are student-centered?
Can you prove it?
This isn’t just my assessment streak showing; it’s surprisingly clear we are not as student-centered as we think we are. Think about it. I’ve worked at institutions where full-time faculty and staff do not know about the range of student services available. One might argue that the marketing of those services is geared towards students, but shouldn’t the employees who might engage/refer students to those services be aware of them, too?
I have also worked at institutions where crucial information (like the purpose of a program or what students should be able to demonstrate as a result of earning their degree) are not posted anywhere for students (prospective, current, or past) to see.
Faculty and staff go through time-consuming and intentional work to articulate learning outcomes or develop rubrics to measure learning, all to not share them with students (the key stakeholder who should know them!).
And then when we do share such resources with students, they don’t understand them.
Consider this not-too-shabby learning outcome from an advising/student success area: “Off-track students will engage in Motivational Interviewing in order to verbalize an action plan to get back on track by next term.”
We probably understand it, but would students? Would an “off-track” student know what motivational interviewing is? If they’re off-track, would they even know how to get back on track (let alone that they’re off-track)? Do they know there are tracks?
There are two realities to come to terms with. First, we must recognize that students are (likely) ignorant to much of the specifics we may be trying to convey to them. Second (and because of that first thing) we need to do a better job plainly and overtly communicating with students in ways they understand. If you’re reading this and beginning to feel worried or overwhelmed, it’s a signal my message is hitting close to home.
Don’t worry, though. There are some intentional and manageable steps you can take to begin to address this.