Project findings by year

Year one

How we collected data

Following the 2019 Fall Reading Week (FRW), we gathered feedback from Undergraduate (UG) and Graduate (GRD) students using an online survey, student consultation groups, and boothing. Faculty, staff, and other stakeholders were invited to submit feedback about the FRW through a webform.

The initial findings from year one of the FRW pilot are summarized below.


Establish a baseline of knowledge around how students are spending their time

80% of students mentioned that they had family/friends living close enough to Waterloo that they could visit during the FRW (80% UG, 63% GRD). The majority of the students spent time preparing for midterms and assignments after the FRW. More than half of student respondents used the FRW to:

  • catch up on schoolwork (82%)
  • take time for rest and personal wellness (78%)
  • spend time with family (78%)
  • visit friends (63%)
  • run personal errands (56%)

59% of students were on campus for at least one day during the FRW (58% UG, 74% GRD). From this group:

  • 35% were international students
  • 43% were in their first term of their program

44% of students accessed at least one campus resource during the FRW (43% UG, 64% GRD). The most commonly accessed were:

  • library (25%)
  • athletics (9%)
  • instructors/professors (9%)

58% of teaching assistants (TA) reported not being able to take a break from TA duties during the FRW. From the open-ended survey responses (n=90) the most common TA duties were:

  • grading responsibilities (n=31)
  • answering student emails (n= 11)

Student perceptions around the usefulness and value of the FRW based on the current level of service and programs that are available on our campus

80% of respondents reported their stress level was “very high” or “high” before the FRW and 89% reported that the FRW was “very useful” or “somewhat useful” in reducing their overall stress level.

More than 80% of students reported that the FRW was useful for:

  • catching up on sleep (91%)
  • feeling rested/rejuvenated coming back for the rest of the term (88%)
  • catching up on academic work (86%)

78% of undergraduate and 63% of graduate student respondents thought the inclusion of the FRW "greatly decreased" or "somewhat decreased" their overall stress levels compared to previous fall terms at Waterloo.

Over 90% of students reported that the FRW positively impacted their:

  • overall student success (98%)
  • physical and mental well-being (97%)
  • academic success (95%)

Identify initiatives students may benefit from during their FRW

When asked, “What could the University do to help promote your success as a student before, during, and after the break”, many students suggested not holding midterms (n=863) or other deadline intensive tasks (e.g., assignments) (n=538) leading up to and after the FRW.

Next steps in program evaluation

The goal of year two and three of evaluation will be to establish indicators that help clarify what the FRW is trying to accomplish. We will answer the question, “What does a good break look like?” (e.g., time to relax, flexibility of choice, access to resources), and begin to investigate how we are facilitating a good break. We will also evaluate how a week-long break compares to a two-day break, in year two of the evaluation (2020).

Potential service and program improvement initiatives will be informed by our baseline knowledge compiled from findings from year one and year two of the evaluation. These improvement initiatives may include the strategic alignment/development of services and programs to promote student success before, during and after the FRW. During year three of the evaluation, we will address in more detail student’s perceptions of the proposed/implemented improvement initiatives.