Same Questions. Same Answers?

As you probably know, OSU GROW consists of four questions: two questions that remain the same each semester (work-class and work-career connections), and two competency related questions which change each semester.

One of the major questions we hear from supervisors who have had a couple years in the Student Employment Experience is, “How do we keep these first two questions interesting for students who have had a couple rounds of OSU GROW already?”

Although there is educational benefit in repetition, we don’t want students to just go through the motions each time they have this conversation. The intent is always for students to think about their job and education in new ways, and to make new connections between work, school and their future goals.

But wait! How can students find new answers with old questions? Isn’t that similar to the cliché about doing the same things over again and expecting different results?

Well, not exactly. GROW is more than a series of four questions. If that’s all it was, we could just have them complete a form and call it a day!

OSU GROW is primarily a conversation, and that’s where you come in! As a facilitator, you can help your students take different angles on a concept and stretch them to think in new ways. Your student employees have had about 12 weeks of work and class since that last conversation, and I bet there is something new in that time-span for them to chew on!

So here are a few tips to help put a new spin on familiar questions:

  1. Try to ask the question in a different way each semester. OSU GROW gives facilitators the freedom to ask questions in new and different ways. Check out the semester conversation guide for options, or ask your own!
  2. Consider leading with Questions 3 or 4. Though intentionally chosen, the order of OSU GROW questions isn’t necessarily set in stone. If you’re worried about the conversation seeming stale, start with question three or four which should be new to your employee.
  3. Follow up on previous statements from last semester. If you’ve kept notes from your students’ responses in semesters past, start off by summarizing a previous concept and ask if they’ve been able to build more to it this time around.
  4. Focus on classes they are taking this semester. For question one, a huge benefit in our corner is that students change classes each semester. If your employee has already had a couple rounds of GROW, I’d start by asking what classes they are learning in class this semester. Then you can ask about work-class connections specific to those ideas.
  5. Ask specific follow-up questions. This is probably the most important tool. Though a student may have a similar answer, you can always help them go deeper with the subject by asking good follow-ups. Even a simple “How so?” or “Can you give me a specific example of what that looks like?” can sometimes go a long way!
  6. Encourage them to keep a look out for new ideas before next semester. Lastly, if the student is planning to return, it’s a good thing to remind them that you’ll be discussing similar concepts next semester. I’d even ask them to be on the lookout at work and class for ways their job may be helping them to … (sorry I have to say it) … GROW!

What other tips do you have for supervisors taking more seasoned students through OSU GROW conversations??? Post below!

What Did Student Employees Learn This Fall?

AU15 Wordle

(Fall 2015 GROW Wordle)


OSU GROW Themes are in!

Thanks to all who submitted themes from your OSU GROW conversations this semester! So far, we have collected themes from:

  • 22 specific Student Life departments
  • Over 50 different supervisors
  • Approximately 700 student employees

I think we can safely say that this semester of OSU GROW was a success! Great work facilitating these reflective conversations.

Several Common Themes Emerged

Altogether, we coded 146 unique learning themes with answers ranging from “developing leadership capacity” to “maintaining infection control”. But among these dozens and dozens of themes, a few common threads stuck out among the mix.

Time Management                                         Communication

Teamwork                                                        Problem Solving

People Skills                                                     Customer Service

These themes were present in almost every Student Life department that participated in OSU GROW. Do you see where your students might be learning skills along these categories? Perhaps more importantly, do you think your student employees see this? Food for thought.

The Big Picture: Mapping to Learning Competencies

Remember those six SEE learning competencies we use to measure what our students are learning on the job? If not, here’s a quick refresher.

So how do our themes lay out across these six boxes of learning? Pretty well actually! Students mentioned learning skills across all six competencies.

  • The highest category mentioned was Practical Competence. One in four themes mentioned belonged to this group. Not a surprise considering both communication and time-management belong here.
  • A close second, Interpersonal Competence made up for 21% of the learning themes mentioned by SEE students. Coworker relationships, customer service, and of course – conflict management were some of the top themes in this group.
  • We have room to grow (no pun intended) in Humanitarianism and Civic Engagement. This was our smallest competency in terms of themes mentioned. It’s got me wondering, how do we help students reflect more on the learning they are doing that relates to citizenship, diversity, stewardship, and human connection? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you’ve got any.

What Now?

Want more information on the themes collected this fall?

Interested in learning how your students’ themes compare and contrast with Student Life in general?

Have ideas for how we might help students learn themes across all six learning competencies?

Reach out to me ( or post your thoughts/questions below!

A Time to GROW

GRead Time: 4 minutes

September is wrapping up and it is officially the first day of autumn so you know what that means … it’s time to start having your OSU GROW conversations with student employees!

Here are three things you should keep in mind as you begin GROW conversations this semester:

  1. Keep it simple. Remember, these do not need to be life changing dialogues. A simple 8-10 minute conversation with each student will suffice, or 15-20 minutes for a small group. Just let the student know what the conversation is, and then walk through the four questions with them. Here is a new GROW job aid which you might find helpful: GROW- Job Aid
  2. Make it work for you. Most supervisors are able to find times when GROW can easily fit into already existing schedules. Do you have regularly scheduled 1:1’s, small staff meetings, or even times when you work alongside your students? These can all be opportunities to work GROW into what you already do.
  3. Engage in the process. Remember, there are great reasons for walking students through this reflection. GROW has a track record of leading student employees to see their work as more than a paycheck. GROW also provides an opportunity to show your employees you are invested in their academic and career endeavors.

Lastly, remember to keep track of patterns you hear from students, as we will collect themes in November. I am always available to chat out questions or concerns so do not hesitate to reach out! / #2-1649.

Happy fall and have fun with your OSU GROW conversations!


OSU GROW Reflection Conversations

grow three sprouts

From a partnership with The University of Iowa, our Student Employment Experience was featured in a Chronicle article this week! The article highlights the IOWA GROW® program, which engages student employees in structured reflection conversations with their supervisors each semester. We have adapted this program into our own OSU GROW as part of the Student Employment Experience within Student Life.

You can access the full article online at

To help you prepare for your own OSU GROW reflection conversations, here are some reminders and resources.

  • Supervisors should hold one (1) OSU GROW conversation with their student employees each semester
  • Conversations can be held 1:1 or in small groups (of no more than 8 students)
  • General themes from the OSU GROW conversations should be recorded and shared back with SLHR

OSU GROW conversations were initially scheduled for September. However, you can hold these conversations during a time of the semester that works best for you, your students, and your operations.

For more directions and resources, use the SEE GROW Instructions_phase one document.

For an example of what these conversations could look like, please enjoy the video below, courtesy of The University of Iowa:

** All references to IOWA GROW® are used with permission from ©The University of Iowa.