self-reporting

Yesterday’s questions got me thinkin’ about something.

While it can certainly help to ask students those questions (Why did you come? Why did you stick?), it’s good to remember that sometimes people aren’t the best at knowing the reasons for their own actions.

My undergrad degree was Psychology. (In fact, I liked it enough – and am nerdy enough – to keep and still read one of those textbooks.) Several things we learned have, surprisingly enough, helped me bigtime in college ministry.

One of the topics in our statistics work was “self-reporting.” That’s just a fancy term for when information comes from “subjects” telling about themselves – through a survey, for example, or a one-on-one interview – instead of collecting data on people through objective observation.

But we also learned that self-reporting can have varying degrees of accuracy!

In my experience, college students aren’t always the best at reading their own motives and needs. As is the case with anyone, students’ self-reports can swing from “dead-on accurate” to delusional. So it’s our job to discern which is which and to ask penetrating questions… and then to determine what the results show, what the results don’t show, and what we see between the lines.

Because sometimes “I stayed because I liked the people” may mean “I stayed because of the pretty girls” OR “I stayed because the greeters were really friendly.” Either one is okay. It’s just nice for us to know.

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  1. Pingback: where do they come from? « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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