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Mason and Student Engagement

16 Nov Posted by in Academics | Comments Off on Mason and Student Engagement

Thanks to Karen Gentemann and her Assessment staff, we’re beginning to be able to ponder the results of the most recent National Survey of Student Engagement, fondly known as the NSSE survey. We’re comparing Mason results both to our past (2003 and 2006 surveys) and to other research intensive universities (also, to high research intensives, our aspirational group). The news is not bad, positively good in some respects, but also cautionary. I hope my colleagues will take a look at the summary comparative results:

Here’s my own take. We’d worried in recent years, based on senior surveys, that we were not challenging our undergraduates adequately. Maybe not, but the NSSE data suggest we’re doing better and are right in the competitive range (which overall is, however, a bit lower than one might wish). We do exceptionally well on diversity scores, far better than our peers in students who interact with people of markedly different backgrounds.

There are two areas of concern, in terms of our comparative position and lack of positive change. First, our students don’t report as much interaction with faculty outside the classroom as we would like, though we have been doing better than we did in 2003. This involves advising, career discussion and so on. We score well on some specific measures, like timely reporting on student work, but overall it’s a category that needs further and more imaginative attention. Also, we lag in students reporting many enriching experiences — a deficit probably related to faculty interactions and one which we can hope the QEP will help address.

Particularly interesting, in the challenge category, involves the facts that seniors report us lower than freshmen do and that transfer students  are noticeably less engaged than students who start with us. Again, there are direction arrows here for further work on our part.

Again, the survey overall implies some heartening achievements in teaching and learning, which means that the areas needing improvement are potentially manageable.

Let me end this one by thanking the several people who’ve commented on recent blogs: I appreciate your interest and above all the ways you improve on my initial remarks.