Listening to Students is a project that brings the perspectives
of students directly to those who serve them in education, using the power of
student voices to expand minds, touch hearts, and contribute in profound,
meaningful ways to inclusivity, student success, and institutional
transformation in the name of diversity.
This work is meant to inform and inspire those in higher education and foster
greater awareness and advocacy for those most at risk and in need in
The project is based on a very simple premise: One of
the best ways to learn about the different types of students that you teach or
work with is to just ask. Accordingly,
students were invited to take a survey asking them to share their thoughts and
feelings regarding their education at the institution.
Over 800 student responses were
returned at the community college where this project first commenced (Sierra College
in Rocklin, California, from 2010 to 2013), and over 1,500 student surveys were
returned at the university where this project was undertaken a year later
(California State University, Sacramento, from 2014 to 2017). The students wrote about such things as their
trials and tribulations in, hopes and aspirations for, and opinions and beliefs
about getting their education.
The students’ responses were
then categorized into sections that include:
New, Transfer, and Reentry Students; Students of All Ages; Students with
Physical Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, and Psychological Disabilities;
Students from Around the World, Multilingual Students, and Students of
Different Cultural Backgrounds; Students of Color and Minority Underrepresented
Students; and Students Who Are Athletes, Parents, Veterans, LGBTIQQ, First
Generation College Students, Students of Varying Financial Means, Dreamer
Students, and more.
Each of these sections contains:
(1) the stated perspectives of that type
of student (from the survey responses), (2) information regarding that type of
student group, (3) suggestions for faculty and staff to better work with or
teach that type of student, and (4) a list of applicable campus programs and
services for that student group. At both
institutions, one section per week was shared with the campus: At the first institution where this work was
done, the sections were e-mailed out directly to all faculty and staff over one
semester. At the second institution, the
sections were posted weekly to the university website and announced each week
in the employee campus news bulletin e-mailed out over three semesters.
The project was coordinated by one person, with support from
campus leaders, as well as a tech team to administer an online survey and to
post the sections to the university website given to the work. No funding was needed.
This work is likely the first of its kind ever done at an
institution of higher education in the nation.
This is something that I hope to see change—and something that should
change. The more faculty and staff know
about the students they serve, the better they can do their jobs.
Who best to teach us
what they need in education than the students themselves? Student voices can reach us and teach us
in ways unlike any other, and they deserve to be heard far more in their higher
This work can be done at any institution of higher education,
in a number of different ways and to any extent, great or small, and by just
about any person(s), ranging from instructors at any level to staff in a host
of campus organizations, programs, and services.
Given that the project has been done at both the
two-year college and four-year university level, the work is entirely scalable
to colleges and universities across the country.
While no quantitative assessments have been
conducted, below are other indicators of the value of this work:
- Qualitative Support for
the Work: I have heard from
numerous colleagues at different levels and in different areas on both
campuses the real value of this work.
At one college, the work was nominated for state Hayward Award for
Excellence in Education, and in the letter of nomination, the Academic Senate
President wrote, “It would be impossible to measure how many students…impacted”
by this work.
Promotion of the
Work: I have been asked to speak to
different groups on both campuses on which the work was done to promote
the project. This work also
achieved finalist status in the ReinventEd contest for innovative work in
education held in Sacramento, California, in September of 2017, and has
been accepted for presentation at the Lilly Conference on Active and
Engaged Learning in Anaheim, California, in February, 2018.
- Use of
the Work: I have seen the work used
in a number of ways on both campuses where the work was done: faculty and staff training, institutional
reports, campus websites, committee work, reform efforts, and student
course readings and assignments.