ACTION RESEARCH REPORT:
Action Research Project
In How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, ed., 2000), the authors compared and contrasted four different types of learning environments: learner-centered, knowledge-centered, assessment-centered, and community-centered. In the areas of student administrative services at higher education institutions, generally, the methods and means by which policies are developed, implemented and practiced determine the kind of environment in which students live and learn outside of the classroom. These environments, as viewed by the students, are considered to be either student-centered or institution-centered. Language in most higher education institutions’ literature tends to reflect a mission or philosophy that is student-centered when it comes to the overall college experience. Yet more often than not, the student’s experience does not match with the published statements or literature. Often, administrative processes reflect an institution-centered environment. They are complex and cumbersome, requiring the students to attend to the needs of the institution rather than the institution attending to the needs of her students. The quality of service is measured in how well procedures have been followed rather than how well the student’s needs have been met. I am committing, through this Action Research Project, to seek to create a comprehensive plan, which will serve to make congruent our institution’s stated student-centered mission with the actual student’s experience in the realm of student administrative services. I will also examine how my contribution as well as the fundamental practices in which I engage daily can enhance the students’ total college experience. One of the questions that I seek to answer through this action research is “How can I, as a student administrative services professional, better facilitate and improve the administrative experience of the students who attend our institution?” And to drill down to a more specific question, "If I am better trained, equipped and empowered to perform multiple and cross-functional tasks in order to meet the students' needs, how will that have a positive qualitative impact on me and others in my community of practice professionally and personally, on the students' overall experience, and ultimately on the fulfillment of our institution's student-centered mission?"
For many administrative functions, the processes are intertwined and involve several distinct university offices and/or functional areas. Each function or service requires information input from numerous parties from throughout the institution. In addition, the result of one service transaction often becomes new information that is needed to complete other service transactions in other corners of the organization. What appears on the surface to be a student service that is provided by one functional area can and does have rippling effects on many areas throughout the institution. And yet, at least at this institution, we have historically operated as if these services are distinctly contained within an established office, perched on a static organizational chart. For the purpose of this project, I examine four specific sets of student services that are common to our undergraduate students’ experience, services that require input from multiple sources and produce output to many destinations:
For each of the abovementioned sets of services, I address student needs, discuss strategies for meeting their needs within the context of university and governmental regulations and requirements, examine inherent traditional practices and the factors that led to their development and endurance, explore alternative streamlined processes that are less cumbersome to the students which will in turn enhance the overall student experience. This project involve engaging the community of student services professional at Seaver College, the undergraduate school of Pepperdine University, in effecting changes necessary for the congruency of the actual student experience and the stated institutional objective of being student-centered. In so doing, it is expected that the quality of the service we provide will be significantly improved, which will lead to a better quality of student life and a more positive student experience at our institution, at the same time, providing for more meaningful work for myself and others who serve the students in these administrative areas.
Click here to read the narrative cases that illustrate the problems inherent in the local context of a segregated system of delivering student services.