Tracking students' emotional development

November 1, 2016
  • Comprehensive Record
  • Comprehensive Learner Record
  • Comprehensive Student Record
Photograph of university student.

How can student records most accurately reflect student learning?--That’s the question driving the pilot Comprehensive Student Records (CSR) project funded by a grant from Lumina Foundation and spearheaded by AACRAO and NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education.

The project is focused on developing comprehensive student records that document evidence of student learning and achievement beyond traditional course names, credits, and grades. The current project includes twelve higher education institutions (listed below)* – two- and four-year, public and private – that are already developing records that display learning outcomes, use competency-based education approaches to education and/or document co-curricular experiences.

AACRAO is publishing a series of institutional profiles about each model record, the campus-wide collaboration required to enact change, and the goals each model is designed to achieve. Each of the institutions involved in the pilot project serves a different student population. Dillard University is a private, historically black liberal arts college serving about 1,200 undergraduates in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Traditional transcripts can tell you whether a student excels in statistics, grammar, history or biology. But it reveals little to nothing about a student’s work ethic and dedication, conflict resolution skills, and resiliency.

However, these qualities are arguably at least as important as a student’s academic accomplishments when it comes to the ability to succeed in life and in work.

“In the last few years, there’s been a lot of research about the value of emotional intelligence,” said Nia Haydel, Director of Dillard University’s Academic Center for Excellence and Thompson-Cook Honors Program. “Emotional intelligence is so important to both academic performance and employability.”

In August of 2013, the Dean of Students, Demetrius Johnson, began working to help students improve their emotional intelligence through targeted programs. Initially, the project focused on students involved with student conduct. Within the first year, judicial recidivism for those students involved in a student conduct case fell by 3% compared to students involved in student conduct who did not received a sanction which included emotional intelligence.

“Prior to kicking off the Lumina project this summer, we were already doing some of these things because we knew it was a good thing to do,” Haydel said. “But we didn’t have the opportunity to translate those things into a co-curricular transcript.”

Thanks in part to the Comprehensive Student Record Project, supported by a grant from Lumina Foundation, beginning in summer 2016, Dillard was able to expand and formalize their emotional intelligence programming to begin assessing and documenting students’ involvement in related activities offered around campus--and it’s made a difference in the entire campus’ culture.

5 scales of emotional development

Dillard’s extended transcript will document student development in five broad categories, including:

  • Self-perception

  • Self-expression

  • Interpersonal

  • Decision making

  • Stress management

Each of these five categories is further divided into three subcategories, for a total of 15 emotional subscales. For example, the first category -- Self-perception -- is broken down into self-regard, emotional self-awareness and self-actualization, and scores in these three areas are collated under the broader rubric of “Self-perception.” Dillard works with a reputable vendor to provide the testing and results.

Beginning with this year’s incoming freshmen, students are being administered the emotional intelligence inventory, and then having one-on-one meetings with campus mentors to discuss their results and devise strategies to work on skills that need improvement. They also have weekly assemblies on various topic in emotional intelligence, to help them understand the skills they are working to develop. By the time these students are seniors, they will be able to map the different activities they participated in that helped increase their emotional intelligence over the course of their college careers.

“As we look through these domains, we are looking at what activities are already happening on campus that can align with these vectors, and then evolving these activities to promote skill development in those areas,” Haydel said. For example, a career program that’s already in place may get an added self-reflection component to help students develop that skill.

“Over the past 3 years since the introduction of the Emotional Intelligence program, physical violence is down, retention is up, and our overall campus environment has noticeably improved,” Johnson said. “The support from Lumina and AACRO has transformed the project.”

A common language

Currently, there are ten campus professionals (including Haydel) certified as emotional intelligence coaches -- training which was funded by the Lumina grant.

“That training has been really beneficial to me as well as the students,” Haydel said. “What we’ve been able to do is take the common experiences of students and give them names.” Students are able to externalize and objectively evaluate the choices they are making and whether or not those decisions make sense in terms of what they want to accomplish.

“For example, I had one student with a low level of emotional expression -- and she wanted to be a nurse,” Haydel said. The assessment and ensuing coaching helped that student to understand that she needed to develop compassion and empathy in order to have necessary skills for the career she was choosing -- and there are programs on campus that can help her build those skills, which then can be documented in the comprehensive student record.

“Those are the kinds of things we can’t capture on a traditional transcript,” Haydel said. “But now we can have programs that build skills in those areas and track the student’s development over time.”

The grant also helped fund the development of a card reader that can track attendance in programs and activities across campus. These activities are mapped to the subscales, which will ultimately translate back to the transcript.

“It’s exciting to have this transcript, but it’s even more exciting because it’s been a transformative experience for students, faculty and staff because now we have a common language to use to talk about what students are experiencing and how they’re navigating college,” Haydel said. “A student will do something and say ‘I had low impulse control.’ And I can say ‘Let’s talk about reality testing what you should have done instead.’ We have a different vernacular. It’s neat because it helps develop their emotional sophistication and be ready for professional world.”

Even the professionals are doing things differently now, thanks to the campus’ growing awareness of emotional intelligence.

“The professionals who took the test, when we’re working with each other we’ll say, ‘I’m working on this issue right now, [using the language of emotional intelligence]’” Haydel said. “It’s changing the way we’re approaching problems and influencing our communication and work styles. I think we’ve only just begun to see how this will transform campus.”

* The twelve institutions are as follows:

Borough of Manhattan Community College

Brandman University

Dillard University

Elon University

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

LaGuardia Community College

Stanford University

University of Central Oklahoma

University of Houston-Downtown

University of Maryland University College

University of South Carolina

University of Wisconsin – Extension and Wisconsin Colleges


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