Assessment Spotlight: The Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning at Georgetown University

By Mindy McWilliams, assistant director for assessment, Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship; and Joan Riley, assistant professor and nurse practitioner, both at Georgetown University

Georgetown’s BTtoP Demonstration Site project, the Engelhard Project for Connecting Life and Learning, is entering its eighth year on our campus. This project uses a pedagogy that integrates well-being topics into course content in order to personalize course material and positively influence student health behaviors. Our assessment design includes an end-of-course survey to measure the impact of the courses on students.

Our strongest survey findings are that students connect the course material to their personal lives, they agree that spending time on these health and well-being topics during class is worthwhile, and that they feel that these faculty members demonstrate cura personalis (care for the whole person) more than their faculty in non-Engelhard classes. In addition, students report learning new information about health and well-being and that they are thinking about these issues in new ways, such as being more open and tolerant toward others struggling with disease, disability, or trauma.

To a lesser degree, students also report changing some of their health and well-being behaviors. The survey collected student statements ranging from “I don’t think I’d ever try smoking” and “no more driving after drinking” to “it made me think about the issues that I never thought were a problem and I will always think twice before doing some of the things we spoke about.” Lastly, about two-thirds of students say they would feel comfortable reaching out to and using the services of the campus health provider who spoke to their class, as well as recommending that campus resource person to a friend in need.

Our survey data lead us to believe the project is having a positive effect on students’ abilities to connect their lives to their learning, as well as to create a more caring and connected university community. The next steps for assessment will be survey revisions and qualitative data collection that will include comparison groups of Georgetown students.