University of Central Oklahoma: Deliberative Polling Initiative
By Guest Bloggers Janelle Grellner and Sara Hill, University of Central Oklahoma
The University of Central Oklahoma participated in the American Democracy Project’s Deliberative Polling initiative on March 26, 2009, seeking opinions and thoughts from 100 randomly selected, first-year students about their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to the services UCO offers.
UCO is one of 15 higher education institutions chosen by ADP through a national application process for this initiative, which was designed to give service providers and administrators valuable insight that can enhance students’ first-year experience, possibly increasing retention.
Deliberative polling is a process that begins with a random sample of people who are polled about a public interest topic, and then break into small groups to form questions and concerns about the poll’s general topic that they will deliberate with their institution’s experts and decision makers.
The method of random sampling provides a great opportunity for students who are not normally involved with student leadership or campus politics to be heard. These students will be able to engage in a process they may feel disenfranchised from.
Through the polling process, UCO student participants were able to directly address their questions and concerns to a panel of service providers (students services, housing, enrollment, public safety, health and wellness, academic support, etc.). Armed with feedback and the challenges posed by the service providers, the participants reconvened in small groups to identify key issues related to their first-year experience on campus which they then posed to a panel of administrators. The resulting conversation was the first of its kind and benefitted both the student participants and the faculty, staff, and administrators who participated.
The project goals were to benefit multiple stakeholders on our campus:
Benefits for Participants
This initiative provides a transformational learning experience regarding a selected issue. It also provides an opportunity to become engaged in the democratic process of becoming informed, fostering understanding in others, and making informed decisions that might lead to policy change. DP provides an opportunity for a random sample of students to serve as ambassadors for the greater good of the sample population and be part of a solution on campus. It involves the students who otherwise would not be involved in campus politics.
Benefits for Facilitators
DP provides an opportunity to student leaders to practice communication skills in a healthy, non-adversarial manner. It provides a transformational learning experience in the common democratic process that may be generalized to many other areas of the student’s life.
Benefits for Researchers
DP provides an opportunity for staff, faculty and students to engage iR a new research methodology with measurable outcomes using a repeated measures change design. It also provides opportunities for presentations and publications in professional conferences and journals.
Benefits for the Campus
This is a unique opportunity to provide an innovative experience on our campus that truly embraces the mission, values, and vision of our university. The process itself has the potential to guide us in leading edge mechanisms of change. This initiative engages everyone in a truly multidisciplinary project that is broad in scope and contributes to the common good. It informs students, faculty, and staff across campus about what services and programs are offered. It will provide essential information to multiple agencies on campus regarding:
- The needs of students that includes, but go beyond academics (health and mental health, coping, socialization, support, a sense of belongingness).
- How resources (advisement, counseling, health care, writing lab, violence prevention, wellness center, service learning, international student support, transfer student support, non-traditional student support, campus life activities) are being utilized and by whom.
- What process would increase student’s knowledge of and utilization of resources.
- What contributes to student’s feeling disenfranchised versus a sense of belongingness.
- What contributes to student’s poor outcomes versus success and retention.
The results from UCO’s deliberative poll were presented by Janelle Grellner and UCO’s ADP coordinator, Dr. Patti Loughlin, at the ADP National Meeting in June, 2009. You can find their PowerPoint presentation on this webpage.The project and analysis also served as a master’s thesis for a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at UCO, Kalen Erikson, who is now completing a Psy.D. at Stanford University.
For more information about UCO’s deliberative polling, contact Grellner at (405) 974-5466 or email her.