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Lehman's dissertation examines Woodstock

Jim Lehman, Director of Counselling, was awarded his doctoral degree in January 1998. On staff since 1960 with 18 years of service, Dr. Lehman has, at various times, been residence supervisor, teacher and principal. In addition to his current work in counselling, he also serves as a Woodstock-sponsored consultant to schools in India and abroad.

Lehman's dissertation is titled "Woodstock -- Its Effectiveness in Fulfilling Stated Goals and Objectives as a Christian, International, Residential School: A Survey of the Graduates, 1976-1995." Lehman developed a 25 question survey to assess alumni's perceived effectiveness of the academic, Christian, international and residential aspects of "the Woodstock experience".

Alumni response was remarkable for this type of study. Nearly 80% (514) of those who received the questionnaires returned them. In addition to the four primary characteristics of Woodstock above, responses were further analyzed according to passport, religion, gender, number of years studied at Woodstock, and by graduating classes grouped into 5-year periods.

Study conclusions are:

1. Overall, Woodstock graduates were in "strong agreement" or "agreement" with the 25 statements that were based on the Woodstock School philosophy.
2. Woodstock School graduates generally considered themselves to be well- prepared for college studies.
3. Indian students tended to feel less well prepared for further studies than USA graduates.
4. Graduates from the USA tended to show more agreement with the statements than graduates from other countries.
5. Graduates who identified themselves as Christian had a tendency to rate statements with a higher level of agreement than did those of other religions.
6. Generally, as students spent more years at Woodstock, agreement with the statements showed their responses to be more positive.
7. The statements that dealt with the issues of religion and Christianity resulted in the most negative assessment.
8. Statements relating to the residential life were rated less positive than all other areas (other than the religious ones).
9. Graduates from the middle two periods (1981-1985, 19861990) were generally more positive than those from the first and last periods.
10. The most recent graduates were, in most cases, the least positive. It may be that there is a tendency to be more positive about an experience when there is a longer-term perspective. Students from 1993 on, in fact, completed the questionnaire before leaving Woodstock.

It should be noted that as Woodstock shifted from being an American missionary school to an international school in the mid-1970s, there was significant demographic change in the student body.

Demographics have now stabilized and further changes of this magnitude seem unlikely. The 1991-95 period probably predicts future student enrollment.

The changed demographics have implications. Lehman notes that because students from Christian backgrounds tended to be more positive about their Woodstock experience, it will be very important to monitor the issue of perceived sensitivity in a student body made up of diverse religious groups and with nearly 50% who are not Christian.

"With the demographic shift resulting in less satisfied students it becomes even more important that Woodstock addresses the concerns of the graduates. They are the ones who have been involved in the program for a number of years. They are the reason for the existence of the school." (Lehman, 1998)

Slightly more than 40% of current students are now of Indian origin. Aside from the issues of the need for a diverse, international blend of students, Lehman's finding regarding a deceased sense of preparedness for advanced study [To Page 5] among non-North American students needs to be addressed. The transition from Woodstock to the Indian university system is as difficult -- or more so -- as that to the West.

Lehman's study concludes with recommendations in each of the four target areas and for the overall program. He calls for systematic appraisal of the school's effectiveness by staff, students and alumni. This is required in areas where he found strong agreement and as well as disagreement. He believes orientation for new staff should be expanded to include more discussions of school philosophy, goals and objectives, the psychological aspects of adjustment and acculturation. One of the mentors notes that this work discusses "not only the quality of the institution; it actually evaluates the effect education is having on the students." Lehman's work relates directly to the self-evaluation called for by the MSA and is already being put to service for that evaluation.

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