A record number of first-year and senior students at Washington State University participated in this year’s National Survey of Student Engagement, with most rating their WSU experience highly.
More than 80% rated their overall experience as either excellent or good, placing WSU slightly ahead of its peers in terms of reported student satisfaction. And in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, 82% of seniors attested that they would definitely or probably attend WSU again if given the option.
“Our faculty and staff across the WSU system worked hard to help our students navigate their educational experience through the pandemic and beyond. The data from NSSE shows us that their efforts made a tremendous difference in our students’ experiences and success,” Elizabeth Chilton, provost and executive vice president, said. “That’s something to be truly proud of.”
A new data dashboard recently debuted on the Office of Institutional Research’s website is also giving members of the WSU community a new way to review the feedback of students. This pilot dashboard focuses on three parts of the longer survey:
- First-year experiences and senior transitions
- Inclusiveness and engagement with diversity
- Engagement in high impact practices.
This year’s NSSE results, considered alongside survey data from 2019 and 2021, give organizations across the WSU system vital insight into the experiences of students whose educational experiences were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSSE and the importance of student feedback
The National Survey of Student Engagement, or NSSE, collects data from seniors and first-year students at hundreds of four-year colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. The goal is to help institutions better understand how their instructional efforts and support services affect student experiences. WSU has participated in NSSE every two years for more than twenty years.
“NSSE is a well-developed and validated assessment of educational practices associated with high levels of student learning and development, allowing WSU to obtain valuable student perspectives on the experiences we offer,” Kimberly Green, director of the Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness, or ACE, said.
As part of the NSSE reports, feedback from WSU students is compared to grouped results from undergraduates at peer public research universities.
Thanks to active campaigning by faculty and staff for student participation, WSU’s response rates of 33% for first-year students and 29% for seniors set a new benchmark for the university and are well ahead of peer institutions. The more undergraduates that participate, the more varied perspectives WSU has on its programs and resources, acknowledged Stephanie Kane, interim director of the Office of Institutional Research.
WSU’s response data also showed that a greater portion of its surveyed students — more than 40% — are first-generation, exceeding proportions reported at peer institutions. WSU students are also more likely than peers at similar schools to have transferred from another institution and are more likely to report balancing work responsibilities with their coursework.
Evaluating high-impact practices
Another important aspect of NSSE is assessing how often students engage in high-impact practices, the kinds of activities that have been shown to positively correlate with learning, retention, engagement, and graduation. NSSE asks about six types of high impact practices, including engaging in a capstone or culminating experience, participating in undergraduate research, participating in community or service learning opportunities, going on a study abroad, and participating in a learning community.
“We’re really excited to see the levels of high impact practice engagement our students have in comparison to peers,” Bill Davis, interim vice provost for academic engagement and student achievement, said. “It says strongly that our service learning offerings in conjunction with community partners are valued by our students. We will continue to forge more of these agreements and find new creative ways of making these kinds of opportunities available.”
Similarly, WSU seniors participated in capstone and culminating experiences at much higher rates than seniors in our peer comparison groups. This is largely thanks to UCORE’s capstone requirement that institutionalizes this good practice for learning.
Valuable data about the undergraduate experience
NSSE assessment’s produce considerable data for participating institutions, with results of interest to units across the system and campuses. System-wide NSSE results are posted publicly on Institutional Research’s website, including reports detailing the 2023 NSSE results, as well as results from previous years.
NSSE data will be further analyzed by different stakeholders for interpretation in their areas. For example, ACE collaborates with Institutional Research to disaggregate results by major for undergraduate degree programs and colleges, focusing on responses from seniors. In addition, NSSE results are compiled for UCORE assessment to provide indirect evidence of student learning on the outcomes of the UCORE general education program.
New this year is a Tableau dashboard that makes some of the high-level results easily viewable to members of the university community. That dashboard is now available online for university personnel to review. Leadership may contact OSPA if they have any questions about the data or reports.
The hope is that engagement with this new data visualization tool will prompt feedback that can be incorporated into how the university reports NSSE data in the years to come, Kane said.