UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Haley Sankey has always enjoyed finding creative ways to reach out to her adult learners. Now she’s hoping to use that creativity to improve learning on campus and beyond.
Sankey, an assistant teaching professor at the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute, recently became the first Penn State World Campus faculty member selected as a fellow in the Faculty Academy for Engaged Scholarship. Sankey teaches and advises in the Energy and Sustainability Policy program, offered through World Campus.
Faculty Academy Fellows spend a year focusing on developing models of engagement in courses and fieldwork and are supported through the Student Engagement Network.
Sankey hopes to use the fellowship to create broad guidelines for incorporating better journal writing in both the traditional and virtual classrooms. She aspires to develop a resource to assist instructors striving to capture the learning that takes place through engagement activities.
Journal writing is one of the ways engaged scholarship activities are often assessed. She says journaling allows students to dive deeper into the subject matter while also providing the instructor with insight on how well students are learning through the engagement experience. Journaling can offer feedback for engagement experiences similar to what teachers get in the classroom.
“I’m really interested in this subject because increased engagement equals retention, which means more students graduate,” Sankey said. “Both students and the University have a lot to gain from a better understanding of how students are learning and the quality of their engagement experiences.”
During the fellowship, Sankey hopes to begin creating:
- universal journal assignment prompts that will advance student writing from mere reflection to exercising deeper learning
- assessment parameters to examine the impact of engaged scholarship experiences
- a journal guidance document for instructors
These tools could extend beyond improving learning at Penn State. Creating a universal guide could enable any practitioner, anywhere, to better measure the outcomes of an engagement experience while using journaling as an assessment tool, Sankey said.
Sankey works with energy and sustainability policy students to find study abroad and internship opportunities. She is also the adviser for the World Campus Sustainability Club, another way students can engage in learning outside of the classroom. The club is open to any World Campus student, regardless of major.
“Our students really look forward to engagement experiences for many reasons but mostly because they want to feel like they are a part of Penn State,” Sankey said. “And any opportunities we can give them to make them feel like they are a part of our University, even though they are studying from a distance, is something that holds a lot of value and goes a long way in terms of student engagement and retention.”
Sankey knows how these opportunities can benefit students because they did the same for her.
“I gravitate toward student engagement because I reaped the benefits of semester abroad and an internship in my senior year as an undergraduate, and the confidence that I gained from both of those experiences was immeasurable," Sankey said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for those experiences. I know why they are important and what they can do for students.”
The Faculty Academy, which is housed under the Student Engagement Network, draws on diverse academic experiences to develop new research and curriculum that spurs sustainable opportunities. Selected by a committee comprised of faculty, staff and students, the Faculty Academy fellows and scholars are focused on expanding the scholarship of engagement and broadening the discourse, conversations and assessment of such efforts.
The Student Engagement Network is a joint initiative between Undergraduate Education, Student Affairs, and Outreach and Online Education. The mission of the Student Engagement Network is to advance the power of participation by connecting students with experiences that empower them to make a positive impact as citizens and leaders of the world.