Students Out-Perform Peers in 'Engagement' with Learning: NSSE
James C. Eck
In 1997, Samford
University launched its new curriculum, Co-neXus, which emphasizes
interactive learning and interdisciplinary studies in core courses.
The curriculum incorporates components of service learning, problem-based
learning, and makes extensive use of technology to facilitate students
taking an active role in learning.
years, Samford has earned international recognition as offering
rigorous degree programs that emphasize retaining information over
the long haul rather than rote memorization of facts for regurgitation
on exams. Research indicates that Samford's rigorous curriculum,
which places significance on "engagement," is paying off.
Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE] surveys undergraduates at four-year
colleges and universities to assess the extent to which students
engage in a variety of good educational practices. The survey includes
items that represent student behaviors that are highly correlated
with many other important learning and personal development outcomes
The first survey
was administered last year to nearly 152,000 freshmen and seniors
from 276 four-year colleges and universities. A total of 300 Samford
freshmen and seniors were chosen at random to respond. Overall response
rate to NSSE was 42 percent; Samford's was 58 percent.
the authors, the survey is intended to help steer national conversation
about collegiate quality away from resources and reputational rankings
toward what matters more to student learning-good educational practice.
Higher education research posits that students learn more when they
are actively involved with the learning process. NSSE findings suggest
that students are engaged with learning at Samford.
In most categories,
Samford students outperformed their peers. For example, entering
freshmen are much more likely to make a class presentation than
their peers. In addition, freshmen and seniors are more likely to
work with their classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments.
These examples of student engagement correlated with higher levels
of educational attainment.
report that their exams emphasize essay and open-ended problems
rather than short answer or multiple-choice questions. Samford students
are more likely than their peers to retain what they learn and to
develop the skills necessary for working with others while dealing
with complex, real-world problems after graduation. The NSSE findings
suggest that Samford is on the right track when it comes to offering
undergraduate degrees of distinction. This is consistent with the
University's efforts toward continuous improvement and ensures that
Samford students receive the best education possible.
students (from left) Jaeik Lee, Season Scott, Katie Nguyen,
Anh-Dao Le, Jonathan Meacham, Jeff Kyle and Jeremy Coop team
up to study pharmacy .
C. Eck is director of Institutional Research at Samford University.