Reality Check: Survey Gives Schools News They Can Use

University Business, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Reality Check: Survey Gives Schools News They Can Use


Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch was famous for asking his constituents, "How am I doing?" Now, the growing popularity of a toot called the National Survey of Student Engagement, sponsored by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, Bloomington, gives colleges and universities a chance to do the same. "What we're trying to do is give institutions and the wider public a window into what actually happens in college--those things linked to learning," says George Kuh, the NSSE director. "We're trying to figure out how well those things are working given the goats and purposes of undergraduate education."

The national benchmark gives schools an indication of how well they perform compared with schools of similar size or characteristics and, more important, find ways to improve their weaknesses.

The 2003 report, called Converting Data into Action, is based on information from 185,000 first-year and senior students at 649 different four-year colleges and universities. The actual results from individual schools are confidential and are shared only with the schools themselves. What the public sees is an aggregate of the results ranked by size and type of school.

The survey results provide comparative standards for determining how effectively colleges are contributing to learning. The NSSE survey is based on 41 key questions in five benchmark areas: level of academic challenge; active and collaborative learning; student-faculty interaction; enriching educational experiences; and supportive campus environment. …

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