Recognition and Resources
IOWA GROW™ has been recognized in numerous books and articles for its accomplishments in helping students foster learning, build connections, and encourage reflection.
But with a little effort, work can be used by staff and faculty at other institutions to help students realize the practical relevance of their studies. Among the more advanced efforts in this area is the Guided Reflection on Work (GROW) initiative at the University of Iowa, which uses brief, structured conversations between work supervisors and their student employees to help students reflect on and make connections between their studies and work on campus. Some connections are more natural than others, such as a graphic design major working on the campus union marketing team; others require more thought to get students to see how what they are studying has personal meaning to their job and other areas beyond the classroom.
George Kuh and Ken O'Donnell
Given that policy makers and institutional leaders are looking for low- or no-cost ways to improve student success—especially for part-time and older students and from historically underrepresented groups—it's high time we look for ways to use the work experience to enrich rather than detract from learning and college completion.
The University of Iowa views those jobs as an important addition to an education. Others have recognized that campus activities like fraternities and even dance marathons help students learn how to work with others. "But we neglect a large body of students who spend a lot of time in campus jobs - working in food services, as receptionists, lifeguards, whatever," says Sarah Hansen, the university's director of assessment and strategic initiatives.
What students can on their jobs and integrate with their academic work is how to communicate, how to work with people who are different, how to be flexible, how to resolve conflicts. Job superviosrs are asked to meet with student workers twice a semester and ask them to ponder four questions: How is this job fitting in with your academics? What are you learning here that's helping you in school? What are you learning in class that can apply here at work? Can you give me a couple of examples of things you've learned here that you think you'll use in your chosen profession?
The following resources provide more information on the connection between work and academics.
Balancing Work and Academics in College: Why Do Students Working 10 to 19 Hours Per Week Excel?
Given that 74% of undergraduates work an average of 25.5 hours per week while going to school, we know surprisingly little about how off-campus employment affects undergraduates and to what extent its impact varies by the number of hours worked. Our survey of undergraduates at a small liberal arts college found that the academic performance of students who worked off-campus was comparable to nonworkers. Notably, the academic performance (greater hours studied and higher grades) of students who worked 10-19 hours per week was superior to all other students, working and nonworking. We suggest that the increase in performance is due to an optimal work-college balance that establishes structure and discipline not achieved by working too few or too many hours. Yet students must balance the benefits of organization and efficiency with increased stress and reduced time for socializing (noted among students working 10+ hours per week off-campus).
Dundes, L. & Marx, J. (2007). Balancing work and academics in college: Why do students working 10 to 19 hours per week excel? Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 8(1), 107-120.
Part-Time Work and Full-Time Higher Education
This paper reports the results of a random sample survey of term-time employment amongst full-time undergraduates in four institutions. There is a belief that the incidence of employment is increasing, with detrimental effects for academic performance, but the supporting evidence is typically drawn from studies of specific institutions and/or specific groups of students. This paper offers a more widely-based estimate of the incidence of employment, analyses who works and why, and estimates the contribution of employment to student income. The paper suggests that the current focus on earnings and hours is limiting and that widely drawn 'employment profiles' need to be identified and linked to academic constraints in order to identify the range of consequences of student employment.
Ford, J., Bosworth, D., & Wilson, R. (1995). Part-time work and full-time higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 20(2), 187-202.
The Influence of Work on College Student Development
Randomly selected students at a southeastern, urban university were surveyed by telephone about their involvement in college and their employment experiences. Results indicated that students who worked 30 or more hours per week were less involved with campus activities than students who were not employed or were employed fewer than 30 hours, Students with larger work schedules also stated that they believed their work schedule negatively impacted their academic progress. Students who did not work indicated that they had more frequent interactions with faculty and were more likely to establish an important relationship with faculty. These Relationships were evaluated as important in helping the student remain at this college.
Furr, S.R., & Elling, T.W. (2000). The influence of work on college student development. NASPA Journal, 37(2), 454-470.
Suggestions for promoting learning in colleges' student employment programs are provided. The suggestions are to increase chances for peer collaboration and evaluation; facilitate informal interactions between students, faculty members, and administrators; encourage curriculum and cocurriculum congruence; and pair faculty and staff members in research teams focused on learning.
Lewis, J. (2008) Student workers can learn more on the job. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 54(41), A56.
Does Work Inhibit Cognitive Development During College?
A longitudinal study of 23 colleges and universities sought to estimate the impacts of on- and off-campus work on standardized measures of student cognitive development across three years. Findings suggest that, for the most part, work that does not exceed 15 or 20 hours a week does not seriously affect student cognitive development.
Pascarella, E., Edison, M., Nora, A., Hagedorn, L., & Terenzini, P. (1998). Does work inhibit cognitive development during college? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 20(2), 75-93.
Enhancing Student Learning through College Employment
As one of the first edited volumes dedicated to student employment, this book provides scholar-practitioners with pertinent information about many aspects of working during college. It is intended for those working in higher education who have responsibility for student employees. Given the breadth and depth of the chapters included in this publication, that audience may range from vice presidents and deans to students in supervisory roles. This book has utility for academic colleges and departments, student affairs divisions, auxiliary services, foundations, libraries, and facilities- essentially, all areas of the academy that employ student workers.
Perozzi,B. (Ed.). (2009). Enhancing student learning through college employment. Bloomington, IN: Association of College Unions International.
A Review of the Effects of Student Employment on Academic Achievement
Examines research on student employment and its effects on the achievement of students. After defining the variables that affect academic achievement, current literature in these areas is reviewed and discussed. Limitations in compiling these data are presented, and implications for practice for union and activities professions are offered.
Perozzi, B., Rainey, A., & Wahlquist, Z. (2003). A review of the effects of student employment on academic achievement. The Bulletin of the Association of College Unions International, 71(5), 15-20.
First-Year Students' Employment, Engagement, and Academic Achievement: Untangling the Relationship between Work and Grades
This study examined the relationships among first-year students' employment, engagement, and academic achievement using data from the 2004 National Survey of Student Engagement. A statistically significant negative relationship was found between working more than 20 hours per week and grades, even after controlling for students' characteristics and levels of engagement. An examination of the indirect relationships between work and grades revealed that working 20 hours or less on campus was significantly and positively related to grades, acting through student engagement.
Pike, G., Kuh, G., & Massa-McKinley, R. (2008). First-year students' employment, engagement, and academic achievement: Untangling the relationship between work and grades. NASPA Journal, 45(4), 560-582.
Student Employment and Higher Education: Empiricism and Contradiction
College student employment has been increasing steadily for at least four decades. At present, approximately 80% of all college students are employed while completing their undergraduate education. Even among students under the age of 24 at 4-year colleges, more than 50% are employed during the school year. Although some general trends are suggested by empirical research completed to date, studies that evaluate student employment and higher education are at times inconsistent and even contradictory. Despite the high prevalence of student employment, no theoretical models have been developed to explain the relationship between employment and student outcomes. This article briefly reviews the student employment–higher education empirical literature. Possible reasons for inconsistencies are suggested, including challenges posed by methodological issues and the absence of theoretical conceptualization. Some concluding suggestions are offered for addressing these empirical challenges.
Riggert, S.C., Boyle, M., Petrosko, J.M., Ash, D., & Rude-Parkins, C. (2006). Student employment and higher education: Empiricism and contradiction. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 63-92.