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Gregory Greenman on Gathering Information From College Students

I am Gregory D. Greenman II, the Evaluation and Assessment Coordinator at the Center for Community and Learning Partnerships at Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT). I am also the Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA at WIT. For the past six months, I have been working on evaluating and assessing the Center’s civic engagement programs and the impact of our community partnerships. I’ve learned a number of lessons about gathering information from college students.

Lessons Learned:

  • Tailoring the delivery of the instrument to the student and to the event is a must!
    • Programs that are single events easily lend themselves to paper surveys at the end of the day.
    • Online surveys work best for semester-long projects where students only come to the office a couple times.
    • Peers are often the best interviewers of students. (This means that the interviewer will have to be trained, but adding to the skills and experiences of a student is never a bad thing.)
    • Focus groups are great, but finding a time where everyone can meet is sometimes impossible.
    • Students can be great allies to evaluators; use them.
      • Teaching students about the importance of evaluation and assessment will help rally them to the cause. We increased the response rate from 6% to 76% in just one semester by teaching student leaders the importance of the survey data.
      • Informing students about the importance of evaluation can be just as important as getting data. College students want their voices to be heard and to impact future programming.
      • A little prodding is necessary.
        • Our typical student is balancing their coursework, one or two jobs, and a social life. Things frequently get lost in the shuffle! Occasional reminders are not bad, but one has to tread the line between reminding and nagging.
        • If you have any sort of deadline for the information, subtract two weeks from the time you need the data and make that your published deadline – but do not close the survey. Students will hand in surveys well after that date.

I hope this gives everyone a few ideas on how to gather data from students without resorting to the old tricks of raffles, prizes, and stipends. Tailoring your methods and involving students in the process is not only cheaper, but might even yield better data because you’re not incentivising.

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1 comment

  • Anthony Reid · November 25, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Gregory,

    Thanks for your article. I am currently a student in class entitled Program Inquiry and Evaluation. Your article intrigued me as I also teach in a community college setting. I hope to implement some of your ‘Lessons Learned’. Some of my thoughts are below.

    I generally do not conduct single event programs, more likely are semester long projects or assessments. Online programs, such as surveymonkey, have been helpful to get a large amount of information from my students (up to 180 in a course).

    Your recommendation of peers to interview other students is interesting. However, upon some reflection, this method would lead to increased interaction and participation to gather data. Additionally, my college students will hopefully feel more engaged in the process and wanting to be part of the change.

    Thanks for the ideas.



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