Knowing is Half the Battle: Faculty & Staff Awareness of Student Support Programs and Services

Last week we shared some basic data about how Faculty and Staff learned about student support programs and services. From web searches to departmental meetings, we examined the various ways faculty and student affairs and services staff learn about the programs and services to support student success.

How this information is shared is important but what might be even more important is what sticks. Hence, this week’s focus on awareness.  Are faculty and staff aware of what programs and services do and do not exist on their campuses? If knowing is half the battle, then it is valuable to understand what student support programs and services faculty and staff know about.

Like last week, this data is based on survey responses from more than 900 faculty and nearly 600 staff members at 11 different institutions across Canada. Faculty and staff were presented with a list of 25 different programs and services that exist at postsecondary institutions across the country. Respondents were asked how often they referred students to the various programs and services. Next week we will discuss faculty and staff members’ referral patterns, but this week we examine the extent to which faculty and staff are able to accurately identify what programs and services exist on their campus.

We searched the web at each participating institution to categorize which of the 25 programs and services existed at that institution. Then we used that data to compare with what faculty and staff reported as being available, or not available. If they got it right, they go one point, if they got it wrong, no points. The ‘scores’ totaled 25 which we changed to a percentage. The data that follows this should be interpreted as X% of faculty or staff correctly identified their institution had, or didn’t have, program or service Y.

In reading the table below (click on it and it opens in separate window), we suggest focusing on three things. 1. The percentage ‘score’ for faculty and staff 2. The differences between the two groups 3. The nature of the program or service; who are the students that would utilize them? faculty and staff awareness of programs and services

There are many things that you could take from this table, but here are four quick observations.

1. The differences between faculty and staff are perhaps smaller than anticipated

2. Faculty were most accurate (90% or higher) in places like the Library, Advising, Accessibility and Counselling — areas with pretty tight links to the in-class academic experience.

3. Faculty were moderately accurate (80-90%) in areas like Career Services, Athletics & Recreation, Co-op/Internship and Experiential Education. Given the focus on helping students connect their academic studies to careers and the community which often includes experiences such as co-op, internships,  and other forms of experiential education, this level of accuracy may come as little surprise.

4. Faculty and staff were least accurate in areas that provide service and support to students from specific populations, like First Generation student services, Aboriginal student services, Religious/Multi-faith centres (which recognizes the religious and spiritual identities of students — a growing need for today’s diverse student body) and Equity offices, more broadly. By and large, these are programs and services that support students who have historically been underserved and underrepresented in postsecondary education. These are also areas where the gaps between the two groups are larger. They were least accurately aware of Service learning, Food Banks and Leadership programs.

Overall, out of 25, the average staff scored 21.98 (meaning they were about 84% correct) and faculty scored 19.70 (meaning they were about 79%) correct. The difference in accuracy of awareness of student support program and services between faculty and student affairs and services staff is statistically significant at p < .01.

Statistical significance aside, what are the implications of these findings for campuses who want to develop a shared responsibility for student success between faculty and staff? We invite you to “leave a comment” and share your thoughts. In an effort to get the conversation started, here are a couple of implications.

  • What does it mean that about 50% of faculty know that Leadership programs or service-learning exist? This was surprising to me when I think of how many presentations at student affairs conferences involve these programs.
  • Faculty scored higher than staff in Undergraduate Research and First Generation Services. Although it may seem to go without saying that faculty have a higher level of awareness than staff in terms of undergraduate research opportunities, it is interesting that they are more aware of support services for first-generation students. How might staff capitalize on the awareness of services for first-generation students and extend that knowledge base to the more expansive programs and services that support lower income students like food banks?
  • What can we use from last week’s post on how faculty and staff learn about programs and services to greater broader awareness of what exists on our campuses?

Next week we turn to referrals. How often and to which programs and services are faculty and staff making referrals?

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