Posted b: Kevin Prentiss – Swift Kick
Columbia Basin College is a typical two year college in many ways. It is staffed by professionals that care and home to a core of student leaders that would love to get more people involved.
We talked about the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement report that said 84% of students at two year institutions will never participate in college sponsored activities. The students felt that this number was a little low for them.
In dance floor theory, we describe these folk as the “neutrals” on the dance floor. They are the ones on the wall. Not engaged, not involved, often making fun of the students who are engaged. They make up the “meh”.
After a quick 2 hour DFT training we met with a smaller group of student leaders and staff to focus on concrete action steps.
The conversation started with – “We know that there are good reasons for people not being involved, kids, jobs, etc. We know that there are categories within the “meh” – let’s break them down and see what we can do to help each group find their X+1, then focus on the things we can implement now.”
I scrambled to keep up at the white board and the end result looked like this:
Making it prettier on the plane home, this is what the students and staff at CBC came up with:
I think this graph is pretty dang close to true for most of the two year schools that Swift Kick has been at.
This is an extremely useful step. While it might seem a little complicated at first, the analysis takes a feeling “no one cares” and creates the possibility for a task list to address very real issues. It makes a bad feeling actionable. It inspires the leaders to more effective work instead of motivation sapping frustration.
We then broke the categories into a matrix and talked about the specific challenge for each “meh” sub-group. The staff and students debated some, and luckily many of the students could speak from their own experience, i.e. “I’m a single mom . . . ” or “My first year I just didn’t know about anything, it didn’t occur to me to get involved . . .” and the live success stories from apathy to engagement helped us all think through how we might help other members of that sub-group.
Again, making it pretty on the plane, the final matrix looked like this:
If you think these slides would be useful for you, you can download them here. (They are Keynote, a mac program) Please attribute.
In the “Primary Challenges” column, a couple of notes:
– It was too easy just to say parents were busy. The single mother challenged the whole group: “Of course everyone is busy, but it’s a matter of values. Once I saw, and felt, that getting involved helped my education, I made time for it like I do homework. No one is too busy, we can’t use that as an excuse to write them off.” Amen.
– The “Don’t Know” group. Students can easily tune out posters and e-mails if they think it is not relevant. Though many leaders find it hard to believe, after they put so much energy into “getting the word out”, students genuinely say they “didn’t know.” Our sub-group rep said she never noticed until she sat next to a student leader named Larry, who she liked, who told her about things. While the info was on the wall, she didn’t see it until her relationship with Larry made the info worth her attention.
The group came up with directions for further exploration, with the main action steps a two pronged strategy, 1) tie in student government and student groups, share this understanding with them and build relationships so that the groups can work together 2) market to the “meh” sub-groups, let them know you know about them. We talked about putting a demographic map up in the main quad showing the diversity of the school and then offering group / activity choices for them with a contact e-mail or phone number.
The over all them was to reduce the isolation of those in the “meh” category. Increase the relevance of communication so that the students knew that the student government knew and cared about them and their special situation, whether it was high-school students in the running start program or non-traditional students.
It was an enjoyable day and I left feeling like the group had a road map for many many engagement projects. Some of which are sure to help reduce the “meh”.
Update just for John: slides in .ppt for pc (warning: the graphics get a little raggedy.)