The National Survey of Student Engagement, administered through scholars at Indiana University, asks students nation-wide about their experiences in four key dimensions: academic challenge, learning with peers, experiences with faculty, and campus environment. The NSSE scholars have identified engaged, active student learning in these dimensions as strongly correlated to student learning. We ask first-years and seniors to complete the NSSE survey every three years, most recently in spring 2014. Students are asked a series of questions, for example, how many papers of more than 10 pages they wrote in the most recent semester, and how many times they were asked to examine the strengths and weaknesses of their own views on a topic. The NSSE scholars distill this information into scores and compare it to all students taking the survey nation-wide, to approximately 100 private colleges and universities near the Great Lakes, and to 10 of our referent colleges who administered the survey to their students at the same time.
It is not possible to compare our scores from 2014 directly with scores from 2011 or 2008, because NSSE changes some questions each year and also alters the presentation of summary data. When comparing Illinois College’s scores with all other students surveyed by NSSE in 2011, we see similar patterns of strength in student-faculty interaction and supportive campus environment and weakness in terms of academic challenge for seniors.
Our scores show us to be using the best practices across the board for student learning for first-years and using many high-impact practices for seniors. For first-years in 2014, NSSE shows us to be clearly superior in offering high impact practices compared to national averages and equal to the average scores of our referents. For seniors in 2014, the scores allow us to see that our students experience some high impact educational practices more often than the national average. Except on one measure, we are equal statistically to the average scores of our referents. 100% of our seniors reported engaging in at least one high impact practice; 91% reported two or more. 96% of our first-years reported engaging in at least one high-impact practice; 43% reported two or more. The work of our faculty through many faculty development initiatives and creating the BLUEprint has shown excellent results. I have every confidence that individual faculty and many departments will begin using this data to consider how to improve learning for seniors, especially in the area of academic challenge.