Academic work falls short of University expectations

Amanda Ayers
Managing Editor

According to a recently released ad hoc Committee report compiled in the Spring 2012 semester, a student’s academic engagement is not determined by the major that his or her class falls under but rather the level of effort put forth by the students and professor. The report highlights both strengths and weaknesses of the University and outlines 67 recommendations for individuals, offices and committees to foster academic engagement.

The report clarifies University expectations about the amount of time students spend on academic work because it falls well short of what it should be. The report also suggests that students of color have not enjoyed the same benefits of a University education as their white counterparts.

According to the study executive summary, “The overall impression is one that reinforces negative perceptions about non-white students’ academic engagement, especially African-American students. It appears that in general, non-white students are ‘engaged’ more in their first year than in their last.”

The Committee analyzed existing University data to look at academic engagement from three angles: academic engagement in the classroom, transformative educational experiences and other factors that influence academic engagement.

In the classroom, increased student engagement will rely on increasing faculty-student and student-student engagement on academic issues, improving data collection so our community can better identify the specific areas for improvement, track changes and better encourage faculty efforts at engagement.

“The report on Student Engagement represents a step in the right direction for Bucknell’s continued growth and maturation. It is not enough to merely attend class and do assigned work; one must also strive to learn outside of the classroom,” Jeff Finegan ’14 said. “The effort on the part of Bucknell, students and student organizations to increase intellectual engagement on this campus is a necessity and should be lauded.”

Transformative educational activities that were listed as capable of enriching a student’s four-year University experience include foundation seminars, residential college programs, service learning and civil engagement, study abroad, undergraduate research and student leadership and organization membership opportunities.

Finally, the report points to other factors that can influence academic engagement such as the admissions process, evaluation of faculty and health factors. An applicant should have characteristics of someone likely to be academically engaged in the future. The University should recognize faculty efforts that seek to contribute to student academic engagement and encourage rigor in the curriculum. The University should address binge drinking and its negative effects on student performance, as well as the ways in which harassment can hinder a student’s academic engagement.

According to the committee’s study, “Our analysis of the data suggested that several negative trends with respect to student academic engagement begin in the very first year, suggesting that particular attention be paid to examining how the first year experience might be altered to improve this situation.”

The findings came from the ad hoc Committee co-chaired by Dean George Shields and Professor Mike Prince. The committee is made of 14 members, composed of three students and 11 faculty and staff. The report findings were presented to the Committee on Instruction (COI), Committee on Campus and Student Life (CCSL) and the Provost’s office at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. The report was released publicly to the campus community on behalf of Provost Mick Smyer and Associate Professor Tim Raymond, Chair of the COI.

The committee plans for the study to be ongoing.

“We have already begun that process [of improvement] in the Provost’s Council and in the Committee on Instruction,” Smyer said. “Again, thank you to Dean Shields, Professor Prince and their colleagues for their very good work. We look forward to considering their recommendations in formal and informal settings in the coming weeks.”

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