Building our data set to recruit our participants: A work in progress

Yesterday, Ally and I sent out our first round of recruitment emails.

[Linda Belcher excitedly waving her hands, via GIPHY]

As we anxiously check to see if any have responded to our inquiry, it’s probably a good time to return to the question of: how are recruiting these students? What did we end up with for our data set?

Earlier on the blog, I discussed the roadblocks with gathering what I envisioned in June to be my “ideal data set.” 31,00+ names was too much to handle. I went back to the drawing board and started to investigate courses that would indicate student engagement.

As we think about the 10 types of student engagement, we know that some of them are often aided or done in conjunction with a credit-bearing course. For example, many of our peer mentoring opportunities, such as becoming a Writing Tutor or a New Student Orientation leader, require a course before beginning the opportunity. If we were able to create a list of those courses, we could, in theory, trust that these students have experienced at least one student engagement opportunity and therefore, they would be eligible for our sample.

In addition to knowing some of those specialty courses, Penn State also have certain course codes to indicate the course material covered. In theory:

  • Courses ending in “94” and sometimes “96” are tied to research topics
  • Courses ending in “95” are tied to internship experiences
  • Courses ending with “99” are tied to study abroad experiences

This of course, doesn’t account for students who do student engagement opportunities not for credit or courses that exist but do not fall under these course numbers. However, it does allow us to work within the Penn State system, create a pool of students to potentially interview, and helps us to uncover the courses that already have a student engagement opportunity component. So, after consulting and searching through the Bulletin and in conversation with Ally, we provided Leigh with the following courses to pull names from.

Course code/number Opportunity type Other notes
295, 395, 495 Internship Pulled across all disciplines
294, 494, 494H, 496H Undergraduate research Pulled across all disciplines
296, 496 Independent studies A bit of a wildcard, but could indicate undergraduate research
-99 Study abroad Pulled across all disciplines and levels (100-400)
CI 200 Peer mentoring Curriculum and Instruction
CAS 490 Peer mentoring Peer tutoring for public speaking
ENGL 250 Peer mentoring The course to train new Writing tutors
APLNG 250 Peer mentoring Peer tutoring for multilingual writers
HIED 302 Peer mentoring The course for incoming resident assistants
HIED 303 Peer mentoring The course for incoming New Student Orientation leaders
EDTHP 434 Peer mentoring Honors teaching experience in Leadership Jumpstart
BIOL 251 Peer mentoring Peer leadership in Biology
BBH 324 Peer mentoring HealthWorks Peer Education training
GEOG 493 Service learning Geography course around service learning
HONOR 493H Service learning Honors version of a supervised service learning experience
LER 497 Course with out-of-class components Human Resources & Technology, with a trip over Spring Break to Silicon Valley
MGMT/IST/ENGR 426 Course with out-of-class components Invention Commercialization, cross-disciplinary and working and consulting with businesses

We know and understand this list isn’t comprehensive, but we feel good about the various types of student engagement experiences we were able to find. Six of the ten types are represented.

From this list, Leigh was able to pull student names and divide them across the colleges. We ended up with just over 6,000 students, which we then randomized and began to recruit. I have to keep reminding myself this is a great starting point. And I hope that by being transparent with how we pulled our sample, on this blog, in presentations, and future publications, that we can open up conversations on what this means and also appreciate the students we do get to interview for this part of the project.

Get in touch!

As I’ve mentioned before, if you have thoughts on this project, this sample, student engagement related courses, etc., please get in touch! Send me an email at! I really want this project to be collaborative and a way to build our networks and conversations around student engagement.

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Head of Education & Outreach Services at Northern Kentucky University. When she's not in the library, Hailley is an avid oatmeal connoisseur, baseball scorekeeper, bike rider, embroidery queen, and reader of memoirs. Check her out on Twitter @hailthefargoats.

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