See current and past FSSE Overview PDFs.
Download an accessible Word document of the current FSSE Overview.
The Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) complements the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). FSSE (pronounced “fessie”) measures faculty members’ expectations of student engagement in educational practices that are empirically linked with high levels of learning and development. The survey also collects information about how faculty members spend their time on professorial activities, such as teaching and scholarship, and what kinds of learning experiences their institutions emphasize.
FSSE results can be used to identify areas of institutional strength, as well as aspects of the undergraduate experience that may warrant attention. The information can be a catalyst for productive discussions related to teaching, learning, and the quality of students’ educational experiences.
This overview provides general information about the institutions and faculty members that participated in this year’s FSSE administration, and highlights ways institutions can use their results. In the first section, we compare the characteristics of FSSE-participating institutions to those of NSSE-participating institutions and the U.S. profile of bachelor’s-granting institutions. We also compare the characteristics of FSSE respondents to those of faculty members at U.S. bachelor’s-granting institutions and provide general information about response rates. In the second section, we provide guidelines for using and interpreting FSSE results, and highlight resources for analyzing and presenting FSSE findings.
In the 2020 administration of FSSE, 13,300 faculty members responded from 94 bachelor’s-granting colleges and universities in the United States (93) and Canada (1). All participating institutions select their own faculty samples. Faculty members were sent email invitations asking them to respond to the online survey.
Nearly all FSSE institutions (87) also administered NSSE to their students in 2020; the remainder administered NSSE in previous years. Having recent data from NSSE allows participating institutions to examine how faculty members and students respond to similar questions.
Institutions could choose to add Topical Modules and consortium items to the end of the core FSSE instrument. The module on Academic Advising was appended by 34 institutions, Inclusiveness and Engagement with Cultural Diversity by 26, Civic Engagement by 17, Teaching Professional Development by 12, Development of Transferable Skills by 10, Learning with Technology by 6, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning by 4, Experiences with Writing by 3; and 4 institutions appended consortium questions. Institutions could append up to two modules or a module and a set of consortium questions.
Tables 1 through 3 provide more information about the participating institutions and faculty members who responded to the survey in the US.
FSSE 2020 institutions were similar in many ways to the profile of U.S. bachelor’s-granting colleges and universities, while differing in a few respects (Table 1). Although slight differences exist between these profiles, the distribution of institutions reflects a wide range of U.S. institutions, which helps ensure that FSSE results represent a broad cross-section of U.S. faculty members.
Table 1. Profile of FSSE and NSSE 2020 U.S. Institutions and All U.S. Bachelor’s‐Granting Institutions
|Carnegie Basic Classificationb|
|Doctoral Universities (Very high research activity)||7||25||30|
|Doctoral Universities (High research activity)||9||14||16|
|Master's Colleges and Universities (Larger programs)||20||29||26|
|Master's Colleges and Universities (Medium programs)||18||7||6|
|Master's Colleges and Universities (Smaller programs)||9||4||3|
|Baccalaureate Colleges—Arts & Sciences Focus||6||7||4|
|Baccalaureate Colleges—Diverse Fields||17||4||5|
|Fewer than 1,000||11||2||2|
|20,000 or more||7||37||37|
|Outlying Areas||1||< 1||1|
Notes: Percentages are based on U.S. postsecondary institutions that award baccalaureate degrees and belong to one of the eight Carnegie classifications in the table. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.
Tables 2 and 3 show selected characteristics of the U.S. faculty who completed FSSE 2020 alongside those of the faculty population at all U.S. bachelor’s-granting institutions. Percentages for the U.S. bachelor’s-granting population are based on the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Table 2. Characteristics of FSSE 2020 Respondents and Faculty Population at All U.S. Bachelor’s‐Granting Institutions
|Respondent Characteristics||FSSE 2020 Respondents |
|U.S. Bachelor's-Granting Populationa|
|American Indian or Alaska Native||1||<1|
|Black or African American||9||7|
|Hispanic or Latino||3||6|
|Native Hawaiian/other Pac. Isl.||<1||<1|
|Preferred not to respondc||8||6|
|Rank of Full-Time Faculty|
|Instructor or Lecturer||17||16|
Table 3. Percentage of Faculty by Disciplinary Area
|Arts and Humanities||24||21|
|Biological Sciences, Agriculture, and Natural Resources||8||7|
|Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer Science||10||10|
|Communications, Media, and Public Relations||4||3|
|Social Service Professions||4||4|
A response rate is the number of respondents divided by the number of faculty members contacted, adjusted for sample members who could not be reached (usually because of incorrect email addresses). In 2020, 33% of invited faculty responded to the survey. The response rate of individual institutions ranged from 18% to 86%, while the average was 39%.
Before sharing FSSE results on campus, users should become familiar with the nature of the data, the reports, and the “story line” of their institution’s performance.
Each institution receives several reports and a data file that help them better understand their FSSE results. Reports are delivered in the Institutional Report package and are available electronically on the NSSE and FSSE websites through the Institution Interface, which can be accessed by up to three campus representatives using their own unique username and password. The data file, codebook, list of participating institutions, this overview, and other supporting materials are also available via the Institution Interface. Institution-specific resources include:
In addition, the FSSE website includes several important documents and resources:
An essential early step in reviewing a campus’s results is comparing the FSSE Respondent Profile with institutional data on faculty. The more closely the characteristics match, the more confidence an institution can have that respondents represent the faculty surveyed.
Another way to gauge data quality is through sampling error, an estimate of the margin by which the “true” score for an institution on a given item could differ from the reported score for one or more reasons, such as differences in important characteristics between respondents and the population. For example, if 60% reply “Very often” to a particular item and the sampling error is +/- 4%, there is a 95% chance that the true value is between 56% and 64%.
We offer the following suggestions for communicating FSSE results to interested parties:
Evidence-Based Improvement in Higher Education
Center for Postsecondary Research
School of Education
201 N. Rose Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-1006