WSG Student Learning Outcomes

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater May 25, 2007

Current students in Whitewater Student Government (WSG) completed a survey regarding their self-submitted estimates of personal gains through their involvement. Twenty-six students completed the survey, of which there were five freshmen, four sophomores, 11 juniors, and six seniors. In the population, 26% were female, 73% male and 3.8% did not respond. Examining the survey questions, there are several interesting characteristics for WSG students, in particular in regards to their experiences as it relates to length of involvement, year in school, and gender. Class Standing Those students who identified as freshmen shared several common responses to questions, as well as differences that may indicate potential for future satisfaction in the organization. All freshmen had been involved for either one semester or one year, also providing the clearest indicator as to the 2006-2007’s WSG experience on their personal development, as compared to other students with additional year’s experience in not only WSG but other university functions. All of the freshmen students felt that after their involvement with WSG they had the ability to explain how an issue or concern would impact students (question 14). Building the confidence and understanding of issues to then verbalize and express its effect on ones peer group is one of the initial challenges of student governance involvement. When students are new to an organization and do not see the relationship of the issues to the student body this is potentially one area that can cause attrition in involvement. In addition, the majority of freshmen identified gains in improving relationships with WSG members, felt WSG led “very much” to gains in impacting student issues, had gained quite a bit in their ability to work collaboratively, gained quite a bit in established trust and credibility with fellow members, and quite a bit in conflict management. One area that presented the most spread answers was in time management. No freshmen felt WSG was a large contributing factor to their ability in doing so, with 3/5 identifying “quite a bit”, 1/5 as “some” and the remaining one as very little. Overall sophomores had two significant areas where WSG provided similar gains: improving relationships in WSG and the ability to explain concerns to others. Although

sophomores are only 4 of the 26 WSG members, all four in agreement in the same area shows some similar attitudes. In addition, the majority of sophomore members expressed have very much or quite a bit of gain in the areas of effective time management and developing their own values and ethical standards (question 7). There were the fewest similarly expressed gains among junior members, also containing the largest group of WSG members and having the greatest spread in length of involvement, varying from one semester to two-three years. The overall feeling of WSG members that membership assisted in their gains in improving relationships with fellow members are addressed later, and remained true for junior members. The other two areas that showed some similarity in all members identifying either as very much or quite a bit were in broadening understanding of how the University works and the ability to work collaboratively with others. It seems the three may relate for junior members, if the majority feels that they know one another, they know their University; it is logical that from there they would feel both comfortable, enabled and in an environment where collaborative work can take place. Among seniors there were two areas where WSG provided strong gains and two that appeared affected by the length of WSG involvement, not necessarily as senior-standing. First, seniors felt gains in trust and credibility with fellow members (question 17) from very much (2/6) to quite a bit (4/6) suggesting a level of confidence with the group not seen as clearly in other grade-levels except for freshmen. This also echoes the overall consensus among seniors that they made significant gains in building relationships with members of WSG (question 10). What appeared very interesting among the seniors was that in the areas of knowledge and skills for their careers (question 12) and improving relationships with University decision makers (question 9), they increased in gains as the senior term of involvement increased. For example, a senior who had participated for three or more years felt WSG had significantly impacted their interaction with University decision makers, whereas two seniors who were only involved for one semester, felt there was only some impact from WSG. One area that seems should have impacted WSG senior was effective time management. Seniors varied in all levels of gains in this area with no attributable causes such as academic class standing, gender, time of WSG involvement, or outside organization involvement impact. This seemed to vary by person and perhaps by their values in becoming involved with student government, however that is purely anecdotal and may be worthwhile investigating among

members in future assessments. An additional area that one would predict affect on senior members it the ability to influence through communication, where the majority of seniors (5/7) felt only some progress to exercise this area due to their WSG involvement. This may be due to the positions held in WSG and the perception of available venues and opportunities to do so in the organization, such as if writing legislation or presenting for university officials are a priority for the group that year. Meeting Use and Satisfaction Of the surveyed members, 46% expressed only making some gains in contributing ideas to a meeting. Although no members expressed very little personal progress made in this area, it’s clear there is a feeling among members that some may find it difficult to contribute at meetings. This is not attributed to gender, years of experience, or year in school. What was clearest when examining the data set were those in the 46% who felt they contributed little to meetings (Question 3), also ranked themselves the lowest in their ability to explain their constituency’s feelings (Question 13), and furthermore self-submitted answers ranking their feelings of being able to collaborate with others (Question 19) as lower than those who felt they could contribute ideas to meetings. The breakdown for each of the questions was as follows:
Group Highest Level of Expressed Gain Mid-level Expressed Gain Question 3 A: 7/27 (26% of population) Question 13 A: 3/7 (43%;11% of population) B: 2/7 (29%; 8%) C: 1/7 (14%; 4%) A: 2/7(29%; 8%) B: 2/7 (29%; 8%) C: 2/7 (29%; 8%) D: 1/7 (14%; 4%) B: 5/12 (42%; 19%) C: 4/12 (33%; 15%) D: 3/12 (25%; 11%) Question 19 A: 2/7 (29%; 8%) B: 5/7 (71%; 19%) Year in School F: 2 SO: 1 JR: 1 SR: 3 F: 1 SO: 2 JR: 4 SR: 0 F: 2 SO: 1 JR: 6 SR: 3 Years WSG .5: 3 1: 2 1-2: 1 3+: 1 .5: 1 1: 3 1-2: 2 2-3: 1 .5: 4 1: 4 1-2: 2 2-3: 2

B: 7/27 (26%)

Lowest Level Expressed Gain

C: 12/27 (46%)

A: 3/7 (43%; 11%) B: 2/7 (29%; 8%) C: 1/7 (14%; 4%) D: 1/7 (14%; 4%) A: 2/12 (17%; 8%) B: 7/12 (58%; 27%) C: 3/12 (25%; 11%)

Juniors, regardless of time spent in WSG, were primarily in the mid-level and lowest levels of expressed gain. Examining the junior year college experience, this may be an expression of need for more purposeful direction in how to initiate collaborating with others, being able to express their ideas through more organized activities such as presentations, small group discussions, and written proposals, and providing specific training to the off-campus sector in how to connect with constituents. In WSG, those who continue their time as a senator following living on-campus may have difficulty knowing how to come in contact with students

they represent. It is often easier for on-campus senators to walk down the floor of their residence hall to ask for feedback than when living in an apartment complex or a house. Specific training in regards to connecting with off-campus residents could assist those senators in this state of transition to learn more effective ways to connect with off-campus students, receive their feedback, and then have more to contribute to meetings and further develop projects to work on with fellow WSG members. This may be the similar feeling among senior members, as there appears to be disconnect between those who feel extensive gains due to their WSG membership in questions 3, 13, and 19 versus those who feel the opposite. Ensuring off-campus senators are sharing time-effective ways of gaining constituent feedback, and in particular providing a venue for those who have successfully done so to share their success, is important and may improve these self-expressed gains in future years. Preparing freshmen and sophomores who are on-campus senators to an off-campus role is important as well. Future assessment may want to include the satisfaction with officer transition training and continued training during the academic year, outside of executive board officers. Male vs. Female There were few characteristics of significance relating to the male vs. female WSG experiences. Including gender evaluated by years of experience in WSG or academic standing, there was limited evidence of anything unique occurring in their involvement. Assessment of satisfaction with the organization may provide additional insight as to their perceptions of the group and how gender plays a role in their navigation of involvement within it. Leadership Experience In regards to question 11, students’ perceptions of gains in understanding of strengths and weaknesses as a leader, it was clear junior and senior members recognized the highest level of gains. In addition, this group also felt they “very much” had made progress in abilities to work with students from different backgrounds, felt as a majority they made progress in building solutions very much or quite a bit, had learned career-beneficial skills, felt they improved relationships with fellow members, and made progress in conflict management. Many of these are characteristics of an ideal student leader, so it is no wonder that those students who rated their student leadership progress highest had also felt gains from their WSG membership in other areas as well.

The group who ranked their understanding of leadership strengths and weaknesses as only quite a bit were far more mixed as a group as it relates to the aforementioned qualities. This is with exception to improving WSG relationships, where the majority (7/8 respondents) felt in this area they “very much” made gains. This suggests that potentially in building relationships many of these students learning from one another came to understand their own personal strengths and weaknesses at a deeper level. Additional leadership development exploration and diversity training could allow these students to more clearly define their personal values and see their relation and fit to WSG more clearly, allowing involved students to build the connection between leadership style and their performance as a member of WSG. The last group, who all viewed their gains from WSG in understanding leadership strengths and weaknesses as “some”, also only identified some progress in contributing ideas, learning career skills, developing solutions, engaging with students from different backgrounds, and impacting students. Utilizing WSG retreats and portions of meeting time to provide students with additional skill development, self-reflection, and gaining a more firm understanding of their personal goals and priorities in WSG could allow for additional gains in future years for these students. Training such as through the cultural identity workshops based on the National Coalition Building Institute’s (NCBI) design could help to inform these student’s ever-changing worldview as it relates to their work as a WSG representative and how the skills built at UWW can relate to their future. The majority of women in WSG were in this group (3/7 in the “some” leadership category out of the six women members). This may also suggest another area of attention and leadership development. In a male-dominated organization it will be particularly important for women to feel strong and secure in their knowledge of themselves as to feel confident in expressing themselves in meetings, taking additional collaborative and leadership opportunities, and persisting in membership. However, the three women have all had different amounts of time involved with WSG and are at different academic class standing. Although these women identified their gains in leadership development as only some being attributed to WSG involvement, it is also possible that they have received additional leadership development and exploration through other venues, whether that be class, personal leadership development, other organizations, etc.

Concluding Thoughts Overall, it appears that members this year experienced gains in understanding the interworkings of the University, improving relationships with one another, and working collaboratively with fellow members. Areas that members lacked personal gain that may assist in the functioning and continued work of WSG in the future include contributing ideas to meetings, developing and applying individual ethics and standards to WSG decisions, learning more effective means of communicating and reporting constituency information, and learning to articulate thoughts in WSG meetings. However, these recommendations are only based on one assessment and offers but a snapshot of the individual feelings of the collective organization. WSG may most benefit from in the future identifying individual member needs based on both years involved and leadership positions. What an off-campus senator with one semester needs as compared to an on-campus executive board member may be very different. Identifying the difficulties in communication between these different positions may also provide insight as to some of the struggles among members to connect with constituents and furthermore feel comfortable expressing that information to the senate. WSG, its executive board members and senate together, should evaluate their focus on issues and how meeting time is spent. If younger members, whether that is considered by class to time of involvement, will feel more valued and engaged if their voice is heard and the role they play in the campus community is respected by allowing both training and time to exercise that role. Through weekly discourse regarding the issues involving the students they work with, members may continue to feel enabled to make a difference in their community and the organization as a whole. In addition, student government provides a unique opportunity to exercise leadership values and skills on a regular basis. Carefully utilizing senate meetings, retreats, and on-going training through the semester to enhance member skills will help build more confident members. However, this is also dependent on the values of the executive board and senate – the effectiveness of training and personal development is only as useful as the participants are receptive. This leads to clearly stating values, priorities and goals that the senate and executive board actively work towards and address on a regular basis.

Excel Spreadsheet Comparisons of Gains *In numbers 26-31, the following code was used: 1 semester involvement: .5 1 year: 1 1-2 years:

1.52-3 years: 2.5

3+: 3

Effect of Class Standing Multiple questions were discussed in regards to gains per class standing, listed as freshmen – “F”, sophomores – “SO”, juniors – “JR”, and seniors “SR”.
Survey # 15 18 22 3 8 19 20 16 6 4 23 5 25 11 17 13 9 14 26 21 7 2 1 24 12 10 1 B A C A C B C A A B B B A B A B C A B B B C C C C A 4 C B D B B C A A A A D A B C C B B B B A B D C A D A 5 B B B A B B A A A A C A A B A A C A A B C B C A C A 6 A B A A B B A A A B B A A B A B B B C A A A A A D B 7 C A D A B B B A A C C A C B A A B A B B A B C C D A 9 B A A A B C A A A B B B A B A B C B A A C C B D B A 10 A A A A C A A A A B B B A C A A A A A A B A A A A 12 A A B A C B A A A B B B B C A A C B C B B B C C C A 13 C B B B B C C A A D C A B D B B C B C A C B D D A 14 A B B A B B B A A B C A B C A A B B B B A B A B C A 16 C A C A D B A A A A B D A C A A C A A C B B B C C B 17 B B B A B A C B B B B C A C A A B A B A B B A A B B 19 B B D B B B B B A B B B A B A B C A A A B C B C C A 20 A A C A A B D A B C B B A C A B C A A B A C B A C A 21,22, 23, 24 F F F F F JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR JR SO SO SO SO SR SR SR SR SR SR 25, 26 M F F M F M F M M M M M F M M M M M M F M M M M M 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 0.5 0.5 1 1 1 0.5 0.5 1 1 1 1 1.5 1.5 2.5 2.5 2.5 0.5 0.5 1.5 1.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 1.5 3

Meeting Use and Satisfaction Comparison of gains in question 3 (contributing ideas), 13 (explain feelings of constituency), and 19 (working collaboratively) with particular note to academic class standing.
Survey # 10 7 16 18 1 15 26 6 5 17 22 21 9 4 25 14 13 3 8 20 23 19 2 11 24 12 3 A A A A A A A B B B B B B B C C C C C C C C C C C C 13 A A A B B C A A B B C C D B B B B B C C C C D D D 19 A B B B B B A A B A D A C B A A B B B B B B C B C C 21,22, 23, 24 SR SR JR F SR F SO JR JR JR F SO SO JR JR SO JR F F JR JR JR SR JR SR SR 25, 26 M F F M M M M M M F M M M M M M F M M M F M F M M 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 3 0.5 1 0.5 1 0.5 1.5 1 1.5 2.5 1 1.5 0.5 1 1.5 0.5 2.5 1 1 0.5 1 0.5 0.5 2.5 1 1.5

Leadership Skills Gains Question 11: Understanding of Strengths and Weakness as a Leader as compared to 3 (contributing ideas), 5 (managing conflict), 10 (improving WSG relationships), 12 (learning skills for career), 15 (developing solutions), 16 (engaging with students from different backgrounds), and 20 (ability to impact students).

Survey # 7 18 20 16 6 4 5 25 17 13 10 15 2 1 3 23 24 26 21 9 14 19 8 12 11 22

3 A A C A B B B C B C A A C A C C C A B B C C C C C B

5 C B A A A A A A A A A B B C A C A A B C A B B C B B

10 B A A A A B B A A A A A A A A B A A A A A A C C A

11 A A A A A A A A A A A B B B B B B B B C C C C C C D

12 B A A A A B B B A A A A B C A B C C B C B B C C C B

15 A B B A A B B A A A A B C C A B A B B C C B C B C B

16 B A A A A A D A A A B C B B A B C A C C A B D C C C

20 A A D A B C B A A B A A C B A B A A B C A B A C C C


25, 26 F M F M M M M M M M M M M F M M M M M M F M M F F

27, 28, 29, 30, 31 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1 1 1.5 1.5 2.5 2.5 3 0.5 0.5 1 1 1 1 1.5 1.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 1 1.5 2.5 1

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