Evidence-informed programming in Student Affairs: A mixed methods study examining behaviors, perceptions, and barriers related to the use of theory and research in program development
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Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Graduate Psychology
Sara J. Finney
S. Jeanne Horst
For decades, professional organizations and leaders in the field of student affairs have called for student affairs professionals to engage in evidence-informed programming (EIP). EIP refers to the use of theory and empirical research to build programs intended to impact specific student learning or development outcomes. The benefits of EIP range from increasing the likelihood that newly developed programs will “work” to increasing the efficiency of the assessment process and facilitating the use of assessment results for program improvement. Despite the many calls for EIP, there is concern that EIP in student affairs is rare; however, empirical research on professionals’ engagement in EIP is limited. In this study of 143 student affairs professionals at a large public East-coast institution, a mixed-methods approach was used to examine the extent to which student affairs professionals engage in EIP, value EIP, and feel confident in their EIP-related skills. Additionally, major barriers to EIP and strategies for addressing these barriers were identified. The quantitative results suggested student affairs professionals value EIP and believe they have many of the skills needed to engage in EIP. Paradoxically, professionals reported rarely consuming research and only “sometimes” engaging in EIP. The quantitative results also indicated time was the most significant barrier to professionals’ engagement in EIP. However, qualitative interviews with participants revealed “lack of time” is often a symptom of other issues such as lack of training and lack of organizational support. With respect to strategies for addressing these barriers, participants overwhelmingly advocated for a top-down approach. In particular, they underscored the importance of clear expectations and accompanying support from leadership.
Pope, Andrea M., "Evidence-informed programming in Student Affairs: A mixed methods study examining behaviors, perceptions, and barriers related to the use of theory and research in program development" (2020). Dissertations, 2020-current. 24.
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