Centre College continues to exceed national averages in the annual National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and the 2015 survey reveals particularly strong marks for so-called “High Impact Practices,” such as service learning, collaborative research, internships and study abroad.
Centre seniors also highly rated perceived gains by the time of their final year in the areas of critical/analytical thinking, clear and effective writing and speaking, the ability to solve complex real-world problems, working effectively with others and understanding people of other backgrounds.
In all, Centre achieved “significantly higher” ratings, as compared with southeast private institutions whose students participate in NSSE, in nine of 10 key engagement indicators that gauge student satisfaction with the level of academic challenge, learning with peers, experiences with faculty and campus environment.
NSSE, now in its 15th year, does not rank institutions. Instead, it uses data to help an institution compare itself with regional peer groups, similar national institutions and all schools surveyed. To provide a longitudinal analysis, students are surveyed in the first and senior years. The survey is produced by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University and Centre has participated from the start.
Dean of the College Stephanie Fabritius, Centre’s chief academic officer, is a strong advocate of NSSE. “It’s probably one of the best assessment tools available in higher education for understanding student perception of their educational experiences, in part because of the comprehensive nature of the survey,” she said.
Fabritius attributes the positive ratings to the quality of Centre’s faculty and the College’s deeply personal and highly engaged approach to undergraduate education.
“Our students consistently rate their interactions with faculty members higher than our comparison institutions, with strong satisfaction regarding advising, clarity in the classroom, and in challenging them to do their best work,” Fabritius said.
When he reviewed this year’s survey, Patrick Noltemeyer, special assistant to the president for institutional research, noted several areas of excellence.
“Our first-year and senior students reported that they were engaged in deeper learning at a higher rate than those at other southeast private institutions and those in our Carnegie classification (national liberal arts colleges), as well as NSSE participants overall,” he said.
Noltemeyer also notes increased involvement in higher-order learning, reflective and integrative learning, using learning strategies, and quantitative reasoning.
“More specifically,” Noltemeyer added, “85 percent of our first-year and senior students report having discussions with individuals with differing political perspectives, a figure that is 10 to 17 percent greater than students at other private colleges in the southeast.”
Collaboration is another strength at Centre, with 80 percent of first-year students and 79 percent of seniors reporting that they worked frequently with peers on course projects and assignments.
Centre students have traditionally performed well above the national average in terms of study habits, and that pattern is evident again this year, particularly among first-year students. In fact, statistics for amount of time spent preparing for class increased from 19.9 to 21.5 hours per week, as did time spent doing course reading (from 13 to 13.8 hours).
by Michael Strysick
December 19, 2015