Academic journal article College Student Journal

What I Hear You Saying Is ... : Analysis of Student Comments from the NSSE

Academic journal article College Student Journal

What I Hear You Saying Is ... : Analysis of Student Comments from the NSSE

Article excerpt

A major challenge of assessing students' experiences in postsecondary education is collecting an array of information that inform institutions about what students do and how they make meaning of their experiences during their time in particular educational environments.

While the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is highly respected and broadly administered throughout higher education, most, if not all, of the analyses of NSSE data have been conducted on the quantitative responses to its survey items.

Very little attention is given to students' responses to the open-ended question at the end of the NSSE survey, "Do you have any other comments?"

This study explored the open-ended responses undergraduate students provided on the NSSE regarding their engagement with educationally purposeful activities at a large urban research institution.

Content analyses were conducted on 739 coded responses from students, yielding 10 thematic categories organized into 4 experience domains. Additionally the study explored the distinctions among the categorical and domain responses across and among the nine colleges/faculties within the study institution.

Potential implications, limitations and opportunities related to the study findings are discussed as well.

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Considerable research on college student development suggest that the time and energy students devote to educationally purposeful activities is the single best predictor of their learning and personal development (Astin, 1993; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Pace, 1980). Quality institutions can be viewed as those that fully engage their students in a variety of activities that contribute to valued and meaningful educational outcomes. A major challenge is collecting an array of information that inform institutions about what students do and how they make meaning of their experiences during their time in particular educational environments.

An often cited set of intentional institutional practices that purportedly add value to students' learning and development is the "Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education" (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). The seven principles are 1) student-faculty contact, 2) cooperation among students, 3) active learning, 4) prompt feedback, 5) time on task, 6) high expectations, and 7) respect for diverse talents and ways of learning. Based, in part, on the seven principles is the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is an empirically based instrument specifically designed to assess the extent to which students are engaged and what they gain from their postsecondary experience (Kuh, 2001). The NSSE instrument assesses engagement in effective educational practices within five benchmarks of an engaged campus: 1) academic challenge, 2) student interactions with faculty, 3) active and collaborative learning, 4) enriching educational experiences, and 5) supportive campus environments (Kuh, 2001).

While NSSE is highly respected and broadly administered throughout higher education, most, if not all, of the analyses of NSSE data have been conducted on the quantitative responses to its survey items. Very little, if any, attention has been given to students' responses to the open-ended question at the end of the NSSE survey, "Do you have any other comments?" Presumably, the responses students provide to this question can clarify, contextualize, and/or expand on the more quantitative-based forced choice survey items in the NSSE instrument. The results of such analyses from NSSE open-ended question responses can be important to individual institutions as additional data to better understand students and inform institutional decisions regarding student learning and development. Additionally, open-ended response data from NSSE that is collected and aggregated among multiple institutions can be helpful in identifying more nuanced commonalities and distinctions among comparative institutions. …

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