The LEAP Challenge Blog

More from this author

The Updated NSSE and Faculty Engagement in Assessment

By Jessie L. Moore, Associate Director, Center for Engaged Learning, Elon University

In a Thursday session titled “The Updated NSSE: Fresh Opportunities to Engage Faculty in Assessment Results to Improve Educational Quality,” panelists provided an overview of updates to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), discussed strategies for involving faculty in the use of NSSE results, and shared lessons learned “in the trenches” at Kalamazoo College.

The updated NSSE allows greater customization for campuses through topical modules that institutions can select based on local priorities. Redesigned reports also allow campuses to select comparison groups and to share sections of the data or full reports more widely. Most significantly, new and revised survey questions reflect a shift from “benchmarks” to “engagement indicators”:

-The Level of Academic Challenge benchmark is replaced by four engagement indicators-- Higher-Order Learning, Reflection & Integrative Learning, Learning Strategies, and Quantitative Reasoning.

-The Active and Collaborative Learning benchmark is replaced by two engagement indicators-- Collaborative Learning and Discussions with Diverse Others.

-The Student-Faculty Interaction benchmark is divided into Student-Faculty Interaction and Effective Teaching Practices indicators.

-Similarly, the Supportive Campus Environment benchmark is divided into Quality of Interaction and Supportive Environment indicators.

-Finally, the Enriching Educational Experiences benchmark is replaced by six High-Impact Practices engagement indicators related to learning communities, internships, study abroad, undergraduate research, culminating experiences, and service learning.

Jillian Kinzie (associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University) shared strategies for increasing faculty engagement with the updated NSSE results, noting that while 91 percent of participating institutions share the results with their faculty, only 43 percent report that the results are explicitly used by faculty. Kinzie hopes that NSSE’s topical modules and redesigned reports will help institutions focus on results relevant to local questions and priorities.

Expanding on the ways that the updates to NSSE might foster more faculty use of the assessment data, Pat Hutchings (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching) shared both obstacles to and openings for engaging faculty. Hutchings noted that, according to FSSE 2014 data, 58 percent of faculty surveyed report using assessment findings to inform changes made to courses, and based on NIOLA data, 63 percent of provosts surveyed want more faculty using assessment results. Obstacles to faculty engagement with assessment, though, include the perception of assessment as a top-down initiative, failure to share assessment results with faculty, data that are ambiguous and hard to act on, data too removed from faculty members home disciplines and programs, and competition for faculty time among multiple institutional priorities. To counter these obstacles, Hutchings advocates creating occasions where faculty can deliberate about assessment findings, organizing assessment conversations around questions that faculty care about (not around sources of data), pursuing assessment as an instance of scholarship of teaching and learning rather than solely as service, and respecting disciplinary differences when reporting data.

Across the sessions’ speakers, three implicit themes emerged:

-Assessment discussions are richer and more likely to elicit faculty engagement when they pull from multiple data sets. As Hutchings notes, discussions should start with questions central to faculty (and other university stakeholders) and organize relevant data from both national assessment tools, like NSSE, and local assessments, like portfolios, program-collected data, etc.

-Partnerships with teaching and learning discussions can facilitate faculty engagement with assessment results that attempts to “close the loop.” Connecting assessment results to faculty questions about teaching and learning narrows the scope of assessment discussions and reframes them as discussions about supporting student learning. Similarly, teaching and learning centers may be better positioned to help faculty frame assessment work as scholarship of teaching and learning.

-In addition to engaging faculty, discussions about assessment should enlist student participation. Anne Dueweke (Kalamazoo College) described using the Wabash Provost Scholars model to involve students in discussions about assessment results. By including students in the collection, analysis, and presentation of data, Kalamazoo was able to dig deeper into questions raised by NSSE results.