The Elon GROW program, an adaptation of the trademarked IOWA GROW program, is designed to contribute to student success through a the intentional and meaningful inclusion of reflection as part of the student employment experience. Elon GROW (Guided Reflection on Work) uses brief, structured conversations between student employees and their supervisors to help students connect the skills and knowledge they are gaining in the classroom with the work they are doing, and vice versa. Led by the Division of Student Life, Elon GROW is focused on making student employment a high-impact experience – one that requires students to reflect on their learning and connect their learning within and beyond the classroom.
Elon GROW Pilot
A pilot of the Iowa GROW program (renamed Elon GROW) was conducted starting in August 2019 with a student baseline of their employment experience in the Division of Student Life. At the same time, supervisors in the pilot also participated in a baseline survey in September. Supervisors received training in mid-September to implement two guided conversations with their student employees. A total of eight departments and sixteen supervisors implemented the program with 160 student employees. The eight departments are the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, Moseley Center, Campus Recreation and Wellness, Center for Leadership, New Student & Transition Programs, Office of Student Conduct, Residence Life, and the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. Both student employees and supervisors were surveyed again at the end of the pilot in early December to gather additional information from their pilot experience. Supervisors also submitted notes from both guided conversations to allow documentation of student responses, which the work group reviewed carefully.
Research on student employment shows that students know they are gaining and enhancing skills and competencies, such as time management, teamwork, and problem solving. What student employees may not connect on their own, however, is their classroom learning and their jobs. While some connections are really natural (e.g. a communications major working on the university’s broadcast teams), others require a bit more thought and deliberate attention. Supervisors are very important assets in helping students make these connections between work and school.
Using these four guiding questions:
- How is this job fitting in with your academics?
- What are you learning here that’s helping you in school?
- What are you learning in class that you can apply here at work?
- Can you give me a couple of examples of things you’ve learned here that you think you’ll use in your chosen profession?
Supervisors regularly check in with student employees on projects, tasks, challenges, and successes. Taking an extra minute or two to periodically check in on how students are doing in classes, and even asking them to relate what they’re learning on the job to course work or vice versa can be all it takes to help get some connections firing.
It is our hope that with the tools and information provided here, you can initiate a similar intervention program with your student employees. We have provided the details of Elon GROW and some resources to help you design and implement the intervention in your setting.