Refreshing engagement: NSSE at 13
McCormick, A. C., Gonyea, R. M., & Kinzie, J.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 45(3), 6–15, 2013.
Thirteen years ago, 276 bachelor's-granting colleges and universities inaugurated a new approach to assessing college quality by participating in the first national administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The timing was right. Policymakers were growing increasingly impatient with an ongoing yet unsustainable pattern of cost escalation, skepticism was building about how much students were learning in college, and regional accreditors were ratcheting up their demands on colleges and universities to adopt assessment for purposes of improvement. Meanwhile, higher education's leaders were frustrated by the crude metrics dominating the discourse about college quality. It's been said that a dean at one of those early-adopting institutions enthusiastically proclaimed: “Finally, a test I actually want to teach to!”NSSE introduced a simple yet effective reframing of the quality question: ask undergraduates about their educationally purposeful experiences. It incorporated several important design principles: emphasize behaviors that prior research found to be positively related to desired learning outcomes; emphasize actionable information—behaviors and experiences that institutions can influence; standardize survey sampling and administration to ensure comparability between institutions; provide participating institutions with comprehensive reports detailing their own students' responses relative to those at comparison institutions, plus an identified student data file to permit further analysis by the institution. NSSE was administered to first-year students and seniors, opening a window on quality at these “bookends” of the undergraduate experience. In addition to reporting item-by-item results, the project created summary measures in the form of five “Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice” that focused attention on key dimensions of quality in undergraduate education: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment. The new survey caught on fast. Annual participation now numbers 600–700 institutions, for a cumulative total of more than 1,500 colleges and universities in the US and Canada. What started as a bold experiment in changing the discourse about quality and improvement in undergraduate education—and providing metrics to inform that discourse—is now a trusted fixture in higher education's assessment landscape. High rates of repeat participation offer compelling testimony of the project's value. Of the first group of 276, 93 percent administered the survey in NSSE's tenth year or later. The Web-based survey is now offered as a census of first-year students and seniors, permitting disaggregated analyses by academic unit or demographic subgroup. In 2013, some 1.6 million undergraduates were invited to complete the survey, providing both valuable information for more than 620 participating campuses and a comprehensive look at student engagement across a wide variety of institutions. The 2013 administration marks the first major update of the survey since its inception. In the following pages, we summarize what we've learned over NSSE's first 13 years, why we're updating the survey, and new insights and diagnostic possibilities represented by these changes. Although NSSE's companion surveys, the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) and the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE), are incorporating parallel changes, here we focus on the changes to NSSE.
Student engagement: Bridging research and practice to improve the quality of undergraduate education
McCormick, A. C., Kinzie, J., & Gonyea, R. M.
In M. B. Paulsen (Ed.) Higher education: Handbook of theory and research, Vol. 28 Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2013.
This chapter traces the development of student engagement as a research-informed intervention to shift the discourse on quality in higher education to emphasize matters of teaching and learning while providing colleges and universities with diagnostic, actionable information that can inform improvement efforts. The conceptual lineage of student engagement blends a set of related theoretical propositions (quality of effort, involvement, and integration) with practice-focused prescriptions for good practice in undergraduate education. The development of survey-based approaches to measuring student engagement is reviewed, including a treatment of recent criticisms of these approaches. Next, we summarize important empirical findings, including validation research, typological research, and research on institutional improvement. Because student engagement emerged as an intervention to inform educational improvement, we also present examples of how engagement data are being used at colleges and universities. The chapter concludes with a discussion of challenges and opportunities going forward.
Student success in college: Creating conditions that matter
Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J.
New York, NY: Wiley, 2010.
Student Success in College describes policies, programs, and practices that a diverse set of institutions have used to enhance student achievement. This book clearly shows the benefits to student learning and educational effectiveness that can be realized when these conditions are present. Based on the Documenting Effective Educational Practice (DEEP) project from the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, this book provides concrete examples from 20 institutions that other colleges and universities can learn from and adapt to help create a success-oriented campus culture and learning environment.
Using NSSE in institutional research
Gonyea, R. M., & Kuh, G. D. (Eds.)
New Directions for Institutional Research, 2009(141, Special Issue), , 2009.
This volume is about three contemporary trends in American higher education that affect the work of institutional researchers. The first is the unabated appetite for more evidence, accountability, and transparency of student and institutional performance. State and federal governments and other groups continue to demand that colleges and universities demonstrate that they are using their resources in an efficient and effective manner while delivering the best education possible at a reasonable cost (Commission on the Future of Higher Education, 2006). Colleges and universities are expected to assess and evaluate their curricula, programs, and services at all levels to maximize student learning and demonstrate faculty productivity and institutional quality. These circumstances have made additional demands on the time and expertise of institutional research professionals (Howard, 2001; Knight, 2003). This leads to the second trend: the increased visibility and importance of institutional research offices staffed by highly skilled and competent professionals who can provide campus leaders with objective, trustworthy data about student and institutional performance (Howard, 2001; Terenzini, 1993). Institutional researchers provide evidence for planning, policy formation, and decision making to help an institution more effectively allocate resources in line with its missions, goals, and objectives, thereby demonstrating that the college or university is worthy of the support of its various stakeholders (Saupe, 1981; Dressell, 1981). Toward this end, institutional researchers gather evidence to inform the approval of new academic programs, program reviews, and reports to external bodies such as accreditors. They conduct analyses of existing data that range from the simply descriptive to multivariate modeling to determine what various units are doing and how well. Recently, institutional researchers have become more involved in activities to assess institutional conditions that support teaching and student learning outcomes. The third trend is the ascendance of student engagement and other process indicators that serve as both proxy measures for institutional quality and actionable information to inform improvement efforts. The most widely used of these tools is the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). NSSE‘s popularity is a function of forces in the external environment that in retrospect all but guaranteed its success, although its developers could not know this at the outset. By the late 1990s, regional accreditors were requiring that all institutions provide evidence of the quality of the undergraduate experience and that institutions use the information they were gathering to strengthen their programs and practices. NSSE was almost a perfect tool in this regard, inasmuch as it was designed and its reports formatted so that a campus could benchmark its results against those of similar schools and use the data almost immediately to point to places where changes in policies and practices could enhance student engagement. The final report of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, commonly known as the Spellings Commission, A Test of Leadership (2006), recommended NSSE as one of the instruments institutions should use. Subsequently, the Voluntary System of Accountability, a joint effort of the National Association of Land Grant Colleges and Universities and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, designated NSSE as one of the preferred tools for reporting selected dimensions of the quality of the student experience. In addition, business leaders and policymakers called for colleges and universities to graduate more students, especially those from historically underserved populations, in order for the United States to remain economically competitive in a global marketplace. Some colleges and universities turned to NSSE because it provided data about activities and institutional actions that decades of research indicated were linked to student persistence and graduation. Another rea
“Never let it rest”: Lessons about student success from high performing colleges and universities
Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 37(4), 42–53, 2005.
A time-honored approach to improving effectiveness is to learn what high-performing organizations within a given industry do and then to determine which of their practices are replicable in other settings. A team of 24 researchers coordinated by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute for Effective Educational Practice at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research set out to do just that. The Documenting Effective Educational Practices (DEEP) project was a two-year study of 20 four-year colleges and universities that had both higher-than-predicted graduation rates and higher-than-predicted scores on the NSSE. Graduation is increasingly used in accountability and performance systems as an indicator of institutional effectiveness, and student engagement is important because research shows that it's linked to a host of desirable outcomes of college.
What we’re learning about student engagement from NSSE
Kuh, G. D
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 35(2), 24–32, 2003.
For years, judgments about the quality of the undergraduate experience have turned on evidence about an institution‘s reputation and resources—students‘ SAT scores, faculty credentials, library holdings, and so on. But students can be surrounded by impressive resources and not routinely encounter classes or take part in activities that engage them in authentic learning. A more meaningful approach to evaluating an institution is to determine how well it fosters student learning. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) was launched upon the premise that to assess the quality of the undergraduate education at an institution, we need good information about student engagement. This article outlines NSSE‘s evolution, summarizes some of what has been learned so far about engagement patterns of different groups of students, and discusses some of the questions and challenges the NSSE results raise.
Assessing what really matters to student learning: Inside the National Survey of Student Engagement
Kuh, G. D.
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 33(3), 10–17, 66, 2001.
This article describes the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), one of the scores of efforts underway to assess student learning and improve the quality of undergraduate education, after the release of the project‘s first national report NSSE 2000: National Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice and while the second round of data collection was nearing an end.