National Survey of Student Engagement Report Released

Posted: July 19, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Christopher Anzalone

George Mason’s Office of Institutional Assessment (OIA) recently released a report on the findings of the 2003 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which is administered by Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research and its Center for Survey Research. Published in May, the NSSE is an annual report that collects data from four-year colleges and universities nationwide, seeking to find out how undergraduate students use their university academic experience and what they gain from it.

George Mason participates in the NSSE every three years. The OIA report is based on the responses of 455 first-year and senior students or 47 percent of those contacted, 4 percent higher than the national average. According to the OIA report, the students “were largely representative of Mason’s first-year and senior students in spring 2003 in the aspects of gender and racial composition, age groups, and grades.”

The report compares responses to other universities within George Mason’s peer group, which includes Syracuse University, Temple University, the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, among others.

The OIA report notes that “after adjusting for [George Mason’s] student and institutional characteristics, [the university] does better than expected in four of the five benchmark areas at both first-year and senior levels: level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment.”

Among first-year students, George Mason scored higher than 70 percent of doctoral-extensive institutions when it came to enriching educational experiences. In another benchmark area for first-year students, George Mason scored higher than the mean among doctoral-extensive institutions, at 59.8 percent.

For senior students, the university scored higher than the mean among doctoral-extensive institutions in the categories of the level of academic challenge and supportive campus environment. George Mason senior students scored at 55.9, several points above the predicted score of 52.7, in the category of the level of academic challenge.

Senior students who responded placed George Mason lower than 80 percent of doctoral-extensive institutions in enriching educational experiences. The university also scored lower than 90 percent of doctoral-extensive institutions when it came to student-faculty interaction. In similar findings, George Mason scored lower than 60 percent of doctoral-extensive institutions in active and collaborative learning.

The OIA report also notes that George Mason scored lower than expected in the area of student-faculty interaction, when adjusted for student and institutional characteristics. It found that 38 percent of first-year students and 27 percent of seniors have never talked to an advisor or faculty member about their future career plans, “which is significantly higher than [George Mason’s] peer institutions.” Fifty percent of first-year students and 36 percent of seniors have never met outside of class with faculty members to discuss course readings or lectures. Some 76 percent of first-year students and 69 percent of seniors have never worked with faculty on activities other than course work. In addition, 72 percent of seniors have not worked or do not plan to work on a research project with a faculty member outside of course or program requirements before graduation, which is 10 percent higher than George Mason’s peer institutions.

The OIA report concludes that “George Mason’s performance is far behind in the benchmark of ‘student-faculty interaction’ when compared with other doctoral-extensive and doctoral-intensive institutions that participated in NSSE 2001-2003.” The report goes on to offer a series of recommendations to improve this area, including initiatives to reach out to the least engaged students, expansion of existing programs that provide a framework for faculty-student interaction outside the classroom, and documentation and dissemination of effective local approaches to improve student-faculty interaction.

The NSSE has been administered since 2000. The number of colleges and universities that participate has steadily risen since the survey’s inception. In 2003, 437 institutions participated and 145,000 students responded.

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