A Growth Mindset
There is a common conception of FOP as simply an outdoors program. Though we use the outdoors as a catalyst, and though we consider the woods an integral part of our work, we also believe preorientation encompasses so much more than that. Shown below are many of the values that we contend with daily, both in theory and practice. Good leaders, and especially good Steering Committees, are able to continuously incorporate feedback to assess how they are doing. Without robust survey tools--tools which intentionally offer space for student voice--we cannot make programmatic change.
Feedback and Recommendations• Filling in gaps—many of the recent responses have been intensely positive towards FOP. While that certainly reflects well on the program, it does not help us answer where there is unmet need. Being more careful about asking how we can improve and what participants wish they saw from their leaders is a way to do so.
• Itemized breakdown of programs—it is often difficult for Steering Committee and leaders to know whether specific programs that have been implemented are useful. Asking FOPpers about targeted aspects of their trips can help us know where to put more resources.
• Improving clarity—as leaders who have been trained extensively and use a lot of “FOP jargon,” it is easy to forget that some of our terminology is either ambiguous or confusing to those filling out the surveys. Updating and rephrasing to better align with our organization’s values will help clear this up.
• Combatting survey fatigue—in the past, the surveys have been put out a couple of weeks into the school year. However, as more and more organizations publicize over email lists, response rates have fallen and continue to do so. Creating a tool must be met with encouragement directly from leaders for FOPpers to fill it out, hopefully during structured time.
Future Directions"Stand tall on a summit after a tedious climb. Take in the remarkable scenery and the exhilaration of accomplishment. But don't pause for long; there are greater mountains to climb while you still possess the drive and capacity to do so." --Richelle E. Goodrich
• Better analysis of data—we currently collect data from hundreds of FOPpers and can evaluate it across years. However, we only have the infrastructure to evaluate general trends (basic mean and variance of rating, detailed and passionate responses). Being able to do more longitudinal studies and evaluating qualitative data such as keywords could be useful.
• Surveying our leader community—while it is important to understand the experiences of our participants, it’s equally important to know that half of our mission statement is providing leadership development. It would be logistically simple and useful to take these lessons and implement them for current leaders.
• Coordinate with other preorientation programs—we know that preorientation is a formative experience coming into the university, and we also know that there is significant variety in activities offered and missions of the various programs. It would be nice to have some overarching structure with which we could standardize some of our practices and pool data.