NACU Faculty to Present Research on Professional and Civic Understanding after First Year Seminars

February 16

On February 16, at the Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience, faculty from four NACU campuses will present their collaborative research exploring the integration of liberal learning, professional preparation, and civic engagement during students’ first year of college. Presenters include Chastity Blankenship, Ph.D., Florida Southern College, Lakeland, Fla.; Andy Morris, Nazareth College, Rochester; N.Y., Shereen Ilahi, Ph.D., North Central College, Naperville, Ill.; and Jeffrey Thomas, Ph.D., Queens University of Charlotte, Charlotte, N.C.

The research sought to establish benchmarks in the intersection of liberal arts, professional preparation, and civic engagement in first-year courses. The research team measured civic engagement and career preparation using a rubric based on the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) VALUE rubric. They used surveys and student artifacts to assess civic communication skills, demonstrated engagement with diversity, the ability to evaluate and apply diverse perspectives, and the students’ ability to take a position while acknowledging other views. Each of the four campuses performed the research in two or three first-year courses which reached 138 students.

Initial analysis revealed statistically significant positive change in several areas including learning through real life connections to content, understanding of professional responsibilities, belief in societal problems being solved through collaboration, personal judgements blocking a speaker’s message, learning to engage in problem solving, and confidence in college and post-graduate plans. Yet the results suggest a disconnect between student and faculty perceptions of learning. The variability in different assessment measures also indicates that some campus or civic engagement activities may better prepare students to think reflectively about their learning than others.

The participating researchers determined that there is fertile ground for further study, and this collaborative project provides a unique opportunity to better understand the connection between civic engagement and professional preparation.

“Facilitating collaboration that advances learning is a NACU priority and this project exemplifies how collaborative research can benefit faculty and students,” said Sean Creighton, president of the New American Colleges and Universities.