With a Demonstration Site Grant from Bringing Theory to Practice, Dickinson College launched a two-year program called the Engaged Learning, Student Mental Health, and Civic Development Demonstration Program. The program focused on whether and how various engaged learning strategies affect the learning and well-being of first-year students.
The project team built on a pre-existing first-year seminar program to create living-learning communities in which co-located students took linked first-year seminars. Student cohorts were grouped together according to issue themes like the environment, global awareness, or social justice. Faculty designed seminar topics and related activities, such as field trips and guest speakers, around these themes. Administrators documented whether the living-learning communities had a positive effect on student academic engagement, alcohol abuse, mental health, and civic engagement.
A second BTtoP grant connected the living-learning program with additional strategies of student engagement, including experiential learning and non-credit residential interest groups. Once again, research measured the effect of engagement strategies on learning outcomes, student mental health, alcohol use, and civic engagement. In addition to evaluating the engagement and well-being of Dickinson’s first-year students, the study was used to examine their transitions into the second year of college and beyond.