Subcommittee Releases NSSE Summary
January 17, 2013
The Institutional Effectiveness Subcommittee of SLRP has prepared an executive summary of the results from the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement:
Guilford administers the NSSE every two years as a means of assessing the College’s overall institutional effectiveness. Specifically, the survey results are used as performance indicators in the College’s strategic plan and in the assessment of the overall academic experience. This year’s survey was administered in March 2012 to all First-Years and Seniors, full-time and part-time, traditional and CCE. The survey drew a 40% response rate from First-Years and a 45% response rate from Seniors. The attached item-by-item ratings show Guilford College’s First-Years and Seniors compared with similar populations at peer and aspirant institutions. The following broad observations were drawn from these data.
I. Comparing Guilford to Our Peer Institutions
Guilford students, both First-Years and Seniors, out-perform students at our Peer institutions in nearly all academic/intellectual items related to collaboration, creativity, writing, making presentations, studying and synthesizing ideas. In addition, our students respond more positively to questions related to diverse perspectives, and are more satisfied with their overall collegiate experience.
On the other hand, Guilford students, especially First-Years, are less engaged in the college’s co-curricular experiences such as student organizations and intramural sports, and are less likely to attend performances, art exhibits, or other campus events. Surprisingly, Guilford students are less likely overall than our Peers to participate in a community project as part of a course, perform volunteer work, tutor other students, study abroad, or talk about career plans with an advisor.
II. Comparing First-Years to Seniors
Several differences between First-Years and Seniors reflect students’ changing relationship to their life–, degree–, and career–paths. For example: First–Years and Seniors respond very differently to questions related to working for pay off campus, providing care for dependents living with you, taking (or planning to take) a culminating senior/capstone experience, and talking about career plans with advisor.
Other differences address the longitudinal “value added” aspect of the Guilford educational experience. The following increases from First-Year to Senior level may reflect this: working on papers or projects that require integrating ideas or information from various sources; and putting together ideas or concepts from different courses when completing assignments or during class discussions.
Many items that show differences between First–Years and Seniors, while indicating “value added” by the College, also identify opportunities for improvement in First Year’s academic growth and co/extra–curricular engagement. Academic skills and experiences that might be reinforced for First–Years include:
- Integrating ideas and concepts from various sources and courses when completing assignments
- Asking questions in class
- Writing papers with lengths of 20 pages or more
- Writing papers with lengths between 5 and 19 pages
- Participating in a practicum, internships, and field experiences
- Preparing for class
- Speaking effectively
- Thinking critically and analytically
The above findings should inform a review of the first year academic and co/extra–curricular experience.
III. Comparing NSSE Data from 2006 to 2012
An examination of NSSE data for Guilford from 2006-2012 shows several broad trends that are roughly divided between strengths and concerns. The focus in this discussion is on the results for Seniors.
Among the strengths, we observe an increasingly more favorable opinion of the quality of advising, a greater focus on writing and speaking clearly and effectively, a stronger emphasis on both the amount and the process of writing, and participation in a learning community. Several of these improvements directly relate to recent campus initiatives such as the writing focus of the QEP. In addition, students report that Guilford’s institutional environment emphasizes spending significant amounts of time on academic work, and that they are spending more time preparing for class.
It is also worth noting areas that have remained strong or weak over the six–year period. Guilford’s continuing emphases on class discussion and writing are reflected in consistently strong responses to questions about participating in class discussions and writing integrative papers. That is further emphasized in questions related to mental activities in which students report that we are clearly emphasizing valuable activities (analyzing, synthesizing, applying) while de-emphasizing less valuable activities (memorizing). Finally, over the study period students consistently report participating in valuable experiences such as community service and a culminating senior experience.
The survey also identifies weaker areas where improvements can be made. For example, students report that they are less likely to participate in study abroad or co/extra–curricular activities. Also, two separate items indicate that students are less likely to see their Guilford experience as having developed their spiritual side.
Other less positive results, consistent over the six–year period, concern how Guilford helps students cope and develop outside the classroom. Students are less likely to feel Guilford helps them cope with non-academic responsibilities or to thrive socially, despite reporting that their experience at Guilford has given them valuable skills in working effectively with others.
IV. Comparing Traditional and CCE Responses
A comparison of survey results for Traditional and CCE students reveals opportunities for strengthening the CCE experience. For example, CCE students, both First–Years and Seniors, report much lower involvement than Traditional students in categories involving time and access – such as participation in extra–curricular experiences, internships, community service, study abroad, independent study, capstone or culminating senior experience, working on campus, and co-curricular activities. On items related to students’ academic and intellectual experiences, Traditional students scored higher on completing readings. CCE students perceived that they were working harder and more challenged by exams than Traditional students. Traditional students seem to access and confer with faculty more than CCE students.
On the other hand, CCE students ask more questions, make more class presentations, and are more likely to prepare two or more drafts of papers. They also more consistently reported having opportunities to speak clearly and analyze quantitative problems. CCE Seniors more consistently reported having good relationships with administrators, although both Traditional and CCE Seniors were similar in responses about their relationships with faculty. Finally, CCE students evaluated their entire education experience more positively than Traditional students and indicated a greater likelihood of attending Guilford again if they were to start over.