Employment during college helps contribute to student success when meaningful connections between learning in the classroom and learning on the job are made evident.
Iowa GROW® (Guided Reflection on Work) uses brief, structured conversations between student employees and their supervisors to help students connect the skills and knowledge they are gaining in the classroom with the work they are doing, and vice versa. Iowa GROW® is focused on making student employment a "high-impact activity" - one that requires students to reflect on their learning and connect their learning within and beyond the classroom.
Four quick questions
Iowa GROW® conversations are guided by four quick 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 you 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?
Research on student employment shows that students know they are learning many “real world” work skills, such as time management, conflict resolution, and balancing priorities. What they may not connect on their own, however, is their classroom learning and their jobs. While some connections are really natural (e.g. a graphic design major working on a marketing team), others require a bit more thought and deliberate attention. Supervisors are very important assets in helping students make these connections between work and school.
Supervisors regularly check in with student employees on work flow, tasks, and assignments. Taking an extra minute or two to periodically check in on how students are doing in classes, and even asking them to relate what they’re learning on the job to course work or vice versa can be all it takes to help get some connections firing.
It is our hope that with the tools and information provided here, you can initiate a similar intervention program with your student employees. We have provided the details of Iowa GROW® and some resources to help you design and implement the intervention in your setting.
Iowa GROW® explained
Thank you to all the supervisors and students who participated in Iowa GROW® during our pilot process; the core Iowa GROW® development team including: Penny Kaelber (formerly with Iowa Memorial Union), Rachelle Stewart (formerly with University Housing & Dining), and Tara Black (formerly with Student Health & Wellness); and Cindy Seyfer and Belinda Marner (formerly with the Division of Student Life) who provided helpful project guidance. Special thanks to Dr. George Kuh for his support and consultation on Iowa GROW®.
Adopting/Adapting Iowa GROW® on your campus?
Please contact Teri Schnelle (firstname.lastname@example.org) about use of the registered trademark Iowa GROW®. I can provide guidelines on trademark use and on naming your program.
Why We GROW®
We created Iowa GROWÂ® in 2009 and have since implemented it across the Division of Student Life (view our timeline). Supervisors in the Division are expected to have two Iowa GROWÂ® conversations (individual or small group format) with student employees each semester. Our data, collected yearly, continue to show tremendous benefits for students who participate in work-academic connection conversations with their supervisors.
Educating students is a shared enterprise at the University of Iowa. Not only are students learning in the classroom and in co-curricular activities, but they are learning real-world skills in the workplace. As supervisors, you are helping students to develop knowledge and skills that will help them reach their academic and career goals. By having Iowa GROWÂ® conversations that ask students to make connections between their work and academics, you can ensure that your employees are able to articulate the skills they are gaining, whether on their resume or in a job interview in the future. For supervisors, Iowa GROWÂ® can help students become more invested in their work on campus, resulting in more committed and harder working students. These conversations also open the line of communication between you and your student employees.
Iowa GROWÂ® is a trademarked intervention* (see adaption/adoption note below) that cannot be properly implemented without following the recommended steps and procedures. We have provided all of the tools and readings that we have used over the last few years to ensure that University of Iowa student employees make meaningful connections between their jobs and their learning. This page outlines the steps to effectively implementing Iowa GROWÂ® in your setting. We have provided a timeline of the Iowa GROWÂ® initiative at the University of Iowa for your reference. The timeline at your institution may look different.
The following resources provide more information on the connection between work and academics.
Over 150 colleges and universities in the United States and abroad have contacted the University of Iowa about implementing Iowa GROWÂ® at their institutions. Iowa GROWÂ® has been recognized in numerous books and articles for its accomplishments in helping students foster learning, build connections, and encourage reflection.