NSSE Update in 2013

Information About the 2013 Update

Launched in 2013, the updated NSSE questionnaire is built upon years of evidence-based testing, institutional feedback and recent advances in educational and survey research. While item changes range from minimal adjustments to entirely new content, the updated instrument maintained NSSE’s signature focus on diagnostic and actionable information related to effective educational practice.

The questionnaire was updated with four goals in mind:

  • Develop new measures related to effective teaching and learning;
  • Refine existing measures and scales;
  • Improve the clarity and applicability of survey language; and
  • Update terminology to reflect current educational contexts.

Consequently, the Institutional Report was thoroughly redesigned to accompany the updated questionnaire. With extensive use of color and graphics, the reports are designed to be shared widely.

How Was the Survey Changed?

Compared to NSSE 2012, about a quarter of NSSE 2013 questions were new, and nearly the same proportion unchanged. Of the half that were changed, an equal number were modified in major or minor ways. Of course, some items were deleted to keep the overall length of the survey about the same. (Changes made since 2013 to NSSE and Topical Modules are documented here.)

Engagement Indicators

Sets of new, continuing, and updated items have been rigorously tested, and are grouped within several Engagement Indicators. These indicators fit within four engagement themes adapted from the Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice, as follows:

  • Academic Challenge – Including Higher-Order Learning, Reflective & Integrative Learning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Learning Strategies
  • Learning with Peers – Including Collaborative Learning and Discussions with Diverse Others
  • Experiences with Faculty – Including Student-Faculty Interaction and Effective Teaching Practices
  • Campus Environment – Including Quality of Interactions and Supportive Environment

High-Impact Practices

High-Impact Practices are special undergraduate opportunities such as service-learning, study abroad, research with faculty, and internships that have substantial positive effects on student learning and retention.

Topical Modules

The 2013 update introduced the Topical Modules, short sets of questions on focused areas such as academic advising, civic engagement, experiences with diversity, writing, first-year experiences, and more. Additional modules are developed over time.

Higher education is constantly changing, and it is important for NSSE to stay relevant to the most salient issues and priorities of institutional assessment and research.

Share Your Ideas and Feedback

We are particularly interested in suggestions for enhanced reporting. If you have any ideas to share, here’s how:

  • Share your ideas, feedback, and questions about the update and redesigned reports, via email at nsse@indiana.edu, or call 812-856-5824. We look forward to seeing your ideas and suggestions.

NSSE Update Timeline


March 2011—First pilot survey tested 
April 2011—Focus groups conducted
May 2011—AIR Round Table and Special Interest Group Sessions
December 2011—Report of 2011 pilot released
February 2012—Second pilot administration begins
June 2012—Updated survey released on June 4, 2012; Presentations at AIR Forum 
September 2012—Registration closes for NSSE 2013 
Summer 2013—Revised reports finalized 
September 2013—NSSE 2013 Institutional Report released, featuring redesigned reports


We are also grateful for the support and collaboration of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Association of American Colleges and Universities in the adaptation of content from the Degrees of Preparation survey.

Evidence-Based Improvement in Higher Education

Center for Postsecondary Research
Indiana University School of Education
201 N. Rose Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405-1006
Phone: 812.856.5824