Equity & Inclusion in Belonging and Engagement
The next step of our work is to begin exploring equity and inclusion in the context of Belonging and Engagement. We often hear anecdotal evidence that different student groups may have different wellbeing support needs, and we find evidence of these differing pathways in the work of pioneering researchers like Sylvia Hurtado, Terrell Strayhorn, and Greg Walton. Because we administer the Wellbeing Assessment nationally every spring, we have a unique opportunity to conduct between-groups research on self-reported pathways to Belonging and Engagement. Many schools also gather large amounts of data relevant to Belonging and Engagement, which can be mined to conduct an even larger multi-site study. Results from that work can inform programming, policy, and the measures we use in our research, including the Wellbeing Assessment. We are looking for partners who can help us conduct that research as well as create data-mining, program-mapping, and framework tools to disseminate to the Collaborative.
Although we have strong reason to believe that the outcome items (i.e., the items that measure whether wellbeing has been achieved) are valid and reliable screeners of wellbeing levels in young adult undergraduate students, our evidence for the pathways items is still in progress. Although we have initial validity evidence from our statistical modeling efforts, that evidence is based entirely on student self-report. To ensure that we have the strongest validity evidence possible, we plan to determine whether actual efforts to alter levels of the pathways will result in changes in levels of the outputs. Therefore, one of the next steps in our validity research is to continue evaluating the validity of pathway items. We also plan to begin administering concurrent and discriminant validity studies to further examine the extent to which our items display simple structure associated with the intended latent construct.
Research on the effectiveness of interventions often relies on statistical tests of the extent to which participants’ scores on a measure change. Sometimes those statistical tests are significant at very small levels of change, for instance a change of .5 on a scale of 1-10. Although those tests provide statistical evidence of change, the field of wellbeing research has yet to explore questions associated with magnitude, which is how much a measure’s score needs to change in order to feel noticeable and beneficial to participants. As this information is lacking in the research, we consider it an important part of our research program.
Intervention strategies are currently under development. The intervention literature in the field of large-scale wellbeing interventions specific to college campuses is very much still in development. A great deal of intervention literature for a number of the dimensions in the Wellbeing Assessment has been conducted with adults and/or in clinical settings. This literature is a good starting place, but we are learning from our cognitive process interviews that healthy young adult undergraduate students may conceptualize many of these dimensions differently from adults. As such, they may need different interventions. To help foster large-scale intervention efforts, we will explore interventions at multiple levels, including the individual, immediate relationships, and the larger community.
The Wellbeing Assessment currently provides simple feedback to students for a small set of items. The feedback provides information and links to campus-specific resources. For each item, students who endorse the item see one version of the feedback, and students who do not endorse the item receive another version. As an example, if a student responds negatively to an item such as “I am involved in at least one activity at this school that I enjoy” the student would be encouraged to join a group on campus and given a direct link to activities offered at their school. If that same student responded positively, the student would be congratulated for their engagement and provided with the same list to serve as an ongoing resource. Our next steps in providing student feedback include developing scoring methods to provide students with normative information about their scores while continuing to provide education and campus-based resources.