Feature: Assessing Ourselves: BTtoP Embarks on Data Reflection Project

By Ashley Finley, National Evaluator, BTtoP, and Senior Director of Assessment and Research, AAC&U

Just as BTtoP-supported campuses are working hard to understand their data and evidence to tell a story about learning and institutional efficacy, we at BTtoP are similarly trying to make sense of the data we have collected over the past ten years. After awarding over $4.2 million in grant monies to over three hundred campuses, BTtoP will be undertaking a major effort over the next two years to gather, synthesize, and explore our existing data and also mine potential areas for further information. Our intent is to more completely and coherently lift up the many data collected from grant-funded campuses in order to help us create a national case for the empirical connections among students’ engaged learning, civic learning, and psychosocial well-being.

At BTtoP, we have labeled this endeavor the “Scholarship of Reflection.” We are attempting to take seriously the charge we give to campuses about their own projects—the need to not only gather data but to do something with it. The first step of this process is to reflect on what you have, think about how to package it, and then write and talk about it. In this vein, the first phase of the Scholarship of Reflection will be to systematically sort, code, and analyze nearly three hundred final grant reports, collected from 2004 to 2013. We will be examining all levels of grants, from demonstration and intensive site grants to seminar grants. During this phase, we will also be gathering case study information from grantee campuses in order to explore the degree to which project emphases on engaged learning, civic development, and psychosocial well-being have been institutionalized following grant funding.

The second phase of the Scholarship of Reflection project will involve analysis of data gathered in 2014 from the Personal and Social Responsibility Inventory (PSRI) consortium campuses. The PSRI is a campus climate survey developed by AAC&U as part of the Core Commitments initiative with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. A number of campuses have agreed to be part of a special consortium supported with BTtoP funding that will administer the PSRI study on their campus over the next two years, in spring 2014 and spring 2015. Of particular importance for this consortium is that directors of the PSRI at Iowa State University have added the flourishing scale (http://www.aacu.org/bringing_theory/documents/MHC-SFEnglish.pdf) for this special administration. If your institution is planning or considering the administration of the PSRI survey in 2015, let us know if you would like to be part of the BTtoP consortium utilizing the flourishing scale.

Second-phase work will also involve a survey of campuses that were part of BTtoP’s Leadership Coalition from 2008 to 2011. The BTtoP Leadership Coalition focused on the role of presidential leadership as a critical means for moving initiatives aimed at engaged learning, civic development, and psychosocial well-being to the center of campus life and learning. The coalition was organized in 2008 and involved fifty-three public and private colleges and universities. A survey of these campuses conducted approximately three years after the conclusion of funding is intended to provide insights into how presidential support of BTtoP work on campuses has helped to facilitate efforts, evolve programs, and deepen project goals.

The final phase of the Scholarship of Reflection will entail additional analyses from the second wave of the BTtoP/PSRI consortium study administered in 2015. We will also be conducting some new analyses of data from the BTtoP cost and expenditure study conducted in 2008 (http://www.aacu.org/bringing_theory/documents/coststudyfinalreport_r.pdf) and the BTtoP Faculty Reward study conducted in 2010 (http://www.aacu.org/bringing_theory/documents/finley_pod_Nov2010_withblurb-1.pdf).

BTtoP will be releasing reports and providing updates on the Scholarship of Reflection project over the next two years as each phase is completed. We are eager to share our findings with you—our network of colleagues and project campuses—and also with those that would like to join our community. BTtoP has long been the voice championing the work of campuses to intentionally connect civic learning and psychosocial well-being with student learning. We believe that the effort to synthesize and utilize the data we have gathered over the last ten years will enable us to share our message broadly and loudly!