Why every college should create learner profiles

Collaborating with your Registrar's office is the key to creating a student-centered pedagogy

Registrars have long been advocates of student-centered policies and processes. However, the Registrar’s Office can also play a role in working with faculty to create a student-centered pedagogy. Consider how far we have come with modifying the generic system class roll. Today, faculty have access to student pictures, pronouns, academic standing, notification that the student has applied for graduation, or even to submit an e-warning if they are not performing well. We thought: Why don’t registrars provide additional information about students to help faculty adjust the way they teach an individual section of a course?

A report is born
To experiment with this idea, Elon University Registrar’s Office created a report for instructors teaching capstone courses in the core curriculum. While capstone courses may vary by institution, most seek to serve as the pinnacle of a program of study, designed to give students experience in the practical applications of their coursework.

At Elon, the capstone is an opportunity for students to integrate and apply what they have learned during their Elon experience. The capstone also challenges students to consider larger themes of the program—ethical reasoning, personal and social responsibility, and global citizenship. The new report illustrated the distribution of completed courses by students enrolled in each capstone, enabling the instructor to further tailor their multidisciplinary approach by knowing the disciplines in which their students excel or may require additional focus.

The new report inspected another factor: common courses completed by students enrolled in a certain capstone. By knowing which classes the students bring (or are missing), the instructor can further tailor his or her multidisciplinary approach by building off of stronger disciplines and providing more focus in weaker areas.

Here’s a sample snippet of the new report emailed to the capstone instructor. In this case, 15 students in the class had previously taken PSY*111.

As one faculty member said, “I was stunned that nearly every student in my class had taken economics during the completion of their core requirements. As a result, I invited an economics professor to join me in a discussion on the impact of tariffs on the global economy.”

Similarly, another professor wrote, “I was surprised that students in my course that had managed to avoid history completely would register for a course titled Rome!”

Expanding the Registrar’s outreach
Given the success of the initial trail, the Registrar’s Office began to work with faculty to determine other information that could be provided to positively impact the pedagogy of a course. Some ideas include:

  • current technologies being used outside the classroom
  • the types of direct service that has been performed
  • global education experiences
  • languages taken
  • whether the learner considers themselves an introvert or extrovert
  • the country/region they are from

Some of this information is available in the student system, but some will need to be collected. To accomplish this, we will survey all students at the beginning of each fall using Colleague, our student system.

The new “Learner Profile” will be available for download from the faculty members’ class roll each semester (see below). Initially, the profile will be standardized across the institution, but future iterations could be based on declared major.

Throughout primary and secondary schooling, teachers spend time getting to know their students. For those of you reading this that occasionally teach, consider the questions that we frequently ask a new class: Why are you taking this course? What do you hope to learn? What have you heard about the course? These questions tells us little about our students.
Having a learner profile could help students engage more quickly, feel connected, and open the door to sharing more about who they are as adult learners.

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