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Assessment of Campus Recreation Student Employees

Ryan Bradshaw
George Mason University
CTCH 826
Dr. Swan


Working while in college is a trend that has continued to grow since the 1970s, with 45%
of full-time traditional aged college students, and over 80% of part-time traditional aged college
students, working while enrolled at American higher education institutions in 2007 (Perna,
2010). In 2011, the United States Census Bureau found this number to be even higher, reporting
that 72% of the nations 19.7 million undergraduate students worked while in school, 20% doing
so full-time while enrolled in full-time studies (Davis, 2012). The reasons for working vary from
student to student, with the most common being to pay for their tuition, cover their living costs,
earn some extra spending money, and to gain work experience (Baum, 2010). Race, gender, age,
family -income, marital status, and institution type do not drastically influence whetherif a
student works while in college (United States Department of Education, 2008), although it these
factors does influence the number of hours a student does spends working per week (American
Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis, 2006). Of students who work, less than 10
percent work on campus (American Council on Education Center for Policy Analysis, 2006).
Based on the U.S. Census Bureaus calculation of almost 20 million enrolled
undergraduates (Davis, 2012), the approximately 10% who do work on campus represents almost
two2 million students. A particular subgroup of on campus student employees work at their
campuss recreation facilities. At most large institutions in the country, recreation departments
are some of the largest student employers on campus; at such as George Mason University, for
example, over 300 students are employed by the Recreation department, making those
departments some of the largest student employers on campus (W. Ehling, personal
communications, October 16, 2015). This paper will focus on students employed by campus
recreation (CR) departments, specifically on the skills that are being learned by these students
and how that skill development is being assessed.


Benefits of Campus Recreation Employment

The daily operations of mMost CR departments see their daily operations are run by
student staff members who comprise the majority of the departments staff (Bower, Hums, &
Keedy, 2005). While there are full time staff members, students take on leadership roles within
the department, often opening and closing one or more recreation the buildings and supervising
fellow student employees (Turner, Jordan, & DuBord, 2005). The vast majority of CR
professionals view these student leadership positions as being vital to student on-campus
learning and extracurricular learning (Pack, Jordan, Turner, & Haines, 2007). Positions that
exemplify this learning include, among others, officiating and programming intramural sports,
teaching fitness classes, and managing the opening and closing of facilities (Tingle, Cooney,
Asbury, & Tate, 2013).
The development of transferable skills that can be used throughout a students working
life is one of the primary benefits that CR professionals see as the objective of student
employment with their department (Toperzer, Anderson, & Barcelona, 2011). This is in keeping
with Astins (1999) student involvement development theory, which suggests that
professionalism, organizational, and leadership skills will be improved through involvement in
employment activities on campus. Hall (2013), for example, also found that student employees
self-reported improvements in collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills, as well
as in their appreciation of diverse perspectives. Other studies have also found that student
employees on campus see increases in skills that can be transferred to future employment (Carr,
2005) and increases in people skills, teamwork, leadership, customer service, and problem
solving (Lewis & Contreras, 2009).


Previous research has shown that students engaged in campus activities can see between
a 0.1 (Zacherman & Foubert, 2014) to 0.4 increase in their 4.0 scale GPA (Kuh, Cruce, Shoup,
Kinzie, & Gonyea, 2008). Similarly, students involved in campus activities are also more likely
to continue through with their degree to graduation (O'Keeffe, 2013). Specifically looking at
students who work in CR, Hackett (2007) found a statistically significant jump in GPA for
freshman student employees of over 0.5 on the 4.0 scale, as well as a slight overall increase in
GPA for all student employees compared to students who were not CR employees.
Assessment of Campus Recreation Student Employees
A significant challenge for CR professionals, however, has been their inability to properly
assess all of the skills that students are learning through their employment with the departments
(Tingle et al., 2013; Toperzer et al., 2011; Wallace Carr & Hardin, 2010), leading to an increased
focus in recent years on assessing learning outcomes of recreation student employees (Tingle et
al., 2013). Most CR professionals struggle with assessment as they do not understand what to
assess or how to do it (Wallace Carr & Hardin, 2010). Wallace Carr and Hardin (2010) note that
there has been a change in what these professionals are being asked to assess, with additional
focus being on what students, as employees and program participants, are learning as a result of
being involved in recreation programs, rather than simply reporting participant or employee job
satisfaction, and how many individuals are using the gym. This trend has come to light as a result
of outside interests requesting proof that higher education institutions are in fact teaching
students, rather than simply getting them involved (Wallace Carr & Hardin, 2010).
Wallace Carr and Hardin (2010), in their article focused on creating learning outcomes,
give examples of the types of inquiries recreation professionals may attempt, such as showing


the skills or knowledge a student staff member would acquire from enforcing policies within the
facility over the course of the year, or how a student staff member would be able to demonstrate
their knowledge of a certain procedure. The authors describe how to assess the student
employees knowledge of a specific procedure, which would involve a supervisor giving the
student four scenarios and asking them to either orally or on paper explain what they would do
for each scenario, which is then assessed by the supervisor.
Wallace Carr and Hardin (2010) based their creation of learning outcomes on Jordan,
DeGraaf, and DeGraafs (2005, p. 134) ABCD model for learning outcome development and
measurement. A is for audience, such as the student employee; B is for Behavior, the action
verb that we hope the Audience will be able to perform; C is for condition, such as after the
training session; and D is for degree, or the level of competence that is desired as a result of
participating (p. 134). The end result is a learning outcome statement, such as By the end of the
second session, participants will perform four basic yoga moves without supervisor prompts,,
that allows the supervisor to assess if a skill has been gained (Wallace Carr & Hardin, 2010).
An important document to note is Learning Reconsidered 2, which was developed by
seven student service professionals associations, including NIRSA, the professional organization
for CR professionals (Keeling, 2006). The document serves as a guide for professionals looking
to create learning outcomes to assess what their students are truly getting out of working for the
recreation department and is recommended as a starting point for any full time student services
staff member looking to delve into assessing student learning.
Other recent studies have also investigated student skill development. Hall (2013), for
example, explored students perception of skill development and whether if it took place in the


classroom or through their part-time employment with a CR department. Through a specially

designed questionnaire with rating scales and open-ended questions, she found that students
identified an increase in collaboration and communication skills as a result of their employment
with CR.
Tingle et al. (2013) used Kouzes and Posners Student Leadership Practices Inventory
(2003), in which students are asked to answer questions about their leadership using a predetermined 5-point scale, as a method to determine which leadership development program best
taught CR student employees leadership skills. The study found that student employee growth
occurred only when a sustained approach was used for leadership training.
In addition to assessing skill development, Rresearchers do continue to look
intoinvestigate student employee motivational factors, such as Johnson, Kaiser, and Bells (2012)
study into the importance of five work-related variables to student employees using an online
survey with a five-point Likert scale. The study found that male employees did not care as much
about pay rates as females did, and first year employees were not as interested in supervisory
roles as more veteran employees. Kellison and James (2011) explored job satisfaction among
student recreation employees using a 7-point Likert scale on the Michigan Organizational
Assessment Questionnaire Job Satisfaction Subscale and the Perceived Work Environment
Factors scale as online instruments, which showed that effective supervision and good feelings
about the organization were the top indicators of job satisfaction.
Assessment of student learning as a result of employment with CR departments is still in
its infancy. The studies mentioned here provide a good foundation, but the authors themselves


call for additional research to be done. As CR departments are further required to show the value
of their contribution to student learning, professionals in the field must advance the assessment
of learning outcomes for student employees using the tools that have been established.

Outstanding paper! Well written and thoroughly researched interesting and a

pleasure to read.


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