National survey looks to gather student experiences

by David A. Bumpus / Beacon Staff • February 26, 2015

The National Survey of Student Engagement, or NSSE, was released on Feb. 19 and will run until March 31, allowing students to voice their opinions on the quality of their experiences in school. It is open only to freshmen and seniors at Emerson. 

“NSSE gives a snapshot of when a student comes in as a first year, and then taking it again as a senior, we are able to see what happens over the four years that you’re at Emerson,” said Michaele Whelan, Emerson’s chief academic officer. 

Over 1,500 schools in the United States and Canada have participated in the survey, which was created in 1998 and first launched in 2000. The survey was founded to foster conversations on undergraduate quality and institutional practices, according to Whelan. 

Whelan said the survey lets college administrators know if students at Emerson are challenged, engaged in their learning, and critically thinking about a wide range of perspectives. 

“It gives you some comparative lenses, because you can see how you’re doing in relation to others,” Whelan said. “It gives systematic national data on what is considered good educational practice.” 

Ronald Ludman, Emerson’s dean of students, said the survey will help the college determine issues that students feel need to be addressed. 

“The survey will identify facets of the College, both inside and outside the classroom, that may need additional attention, including resource deployment and possible changes to policies and practices to support and enhance the student experience,” Ludman wrote in an email to the Beacon. 

The survey asks questions about the different kinds of learning students are experiencing in classes, different kinds of diversity conversations that arise in classes, and how challenging and effective courses are. 

Whelan said the survey is based on a set of seven principles that detail best practices in undergraduate education. The principles include student-faculty interaction, active learning, timely feedback about assignments after they are turned in, setting expectations, experiences with different forms of diversity, and cooperation among students. 

“This is a way for us to hear from students, to then be able, as faculty and academic administrators, to talk together about how we can continue to improve the Emerson education for students,” Whelan said. 

Whelan said that the survey results from previous years showed that Emerson scores highly in reflective and integrative thinking, and lower on concepts like quantitative reasoning. 

Whelan said she hoped for at least 50 percent of eligible students at the school to participate. 

“This is something everybody sits down and looks at very carefully, and we look at our scores over time,” Whelan said. “It’s time to have the students’ voices be heard.”