College to conduct student engagement survey
First-years and seniors at the College will participate in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is designed to gauge student perception of the College. The NSSE then compares the College’s results to those gathered from similar liberal arts institutions.
Every year, the NSSE uses [the College Student Report]—“a national survey of undergraduate quality,” according to its website—to collect information from hundreds of colleges and universities. Since 2000, when the survey was first administered by Indiana University, more than two million students from about 1,451 undergraduate institutions provided the NSSE with their input.
Institutions often administer the test every three years, so as to compare students’ perceptions during their first year to their thoughts during their senior year.
Institutions use such data to identify the areas in which they are achieving success and the areas in which they need to make amends. Director of Institutional Research and Assessment William Wilson said, “We’re looking to see if we’re making any improvement in student perception of the College.”
The survey aims to estimate the degree to which students engage within their larger campus community. According to the NSSE website, “Student engagement represents two critical features of collegiate quality. The first is the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other educationally purposeful activities. The second is how the institution deploys its resources and organizes the curriculum and other learning opportunities to get students to participate in activities that decades of research studies show are linked to student learning.”
The NSSE’s website explains that “Survey items on [the College Student Report] represent empirically confirmed ‘good practices’ in undergraduate education. That is, they reflect behaviors by students and institutions that are associated with desired outcomes of college.” The organization’s survey is comprised of 28 questions, each of which is subdivided into multiple parts. Most students spend approximately 15 minutes completing the questionnaire.
Sample questions include, “To what extent does your institution emphasize…encouraging contact among students from different economic, social, and racial or ethnic backgrounds?” and, “During the current school year, about how often have you…examined the strengths and weaknesses of your own views on a topic or issue?”
The College administered the survey once before in 2008, polling 55 to 60 percent of the class of 2011 during their first year on the Hill. The College is looking to poll this same class now so as to compare the results to those collected in 2008 and analyze the way in which students’ perceptions have changed. “The use of this survey reflects a greater emphasis on accountability,” Wilson said.
The College is also seeking to compare its results to those gathered at other liberal arts institutions. The NSSE will provide a the administration with a detailed report on the ways in which its student responses compare to those logged at similar institutions. This report will enable the College to identify the fields in which it’s measuring up to other schools of its caliber and those in which it is not.
The NSSE website highlights another way in which the survey is valuable, stating, “This information is also used by prospective college students, their parents, college counselors, academic advisors, institutional research officers and researchers, in learning more about how students spend their time at different colleges and universities and what they gain from their experience.”
Students can access the survey until May. For the next few months, the College is looking to achieve the highest possible participation. Those who participate in the survey will be entered in a raffle, and six students will be selected randomly to win $50 certificates to the Colby Bookstore. “The more people we have, the more representative the answers [will be], and the more conclusions we can draw,” Wilson said.