The Institutional Effectiveness - Teaching Connection, #108

Comparing Perceptions of Student Engagement: Spring 2019 FSSE and NSSE Results

April 2020

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is designed to gather information about students' participation in programs and activities that institutions provide for their learning and personal development. The results provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college. As such, the NSSE serves as an indirect source of evidence for student learning assessment. The NSSE is administer by the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University and has been administered to nearly 300,000 students at over 500 institutions since 2000. Miami University first participated in 2000 and then in every odd-numbered year thereafter (11 times total). 

The Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) was developed to gather information about faculty members' perceptions of student engagement. It asks faculty members teaching undergraduate courses to provide feedback about their expectations for and perceptions of student engagement. Comparing the NSSE and the FSSE results provides institutions with a view of differences in perceptions of student engagement and learning that may serve as a catalyst for improving student success.

Miami University administered both the NSSE and the FSSE in the spring semester of 2019. The NSSE was sent to all first-year and senior students at all campuses; 2,444 students responded, a 21% response rate. The FSSE was administered to all full-time and part-time faculty members at all campuses who teach undergraduate courses; 598 faculty members responded, a 37% response rate. 

The Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness analyzed and compared the FSSE and NSSE results. The survey items shown below were those for which there was more than a 10% difference in responses from faculty members and students for either lower-division classes/first-year students or upper-division classes/seniors. These 24 items represent 33% of all common NSSE/FSSE items. 

The greatest differences in faculty members' and students' perceptions of student engagement occurred in the following areas:

  • Encouraging contact among students from different backgrounds (social, racial/ethnic, religious, etc.)(upper-division/senior). Ninety-two percent of faculty respondents teaching upper-division courses said it is important or very important to them that Miami emphasizes encouraging contact among students from different backgrounds, but only 44% of senior respondents said Miami emphasizes this. 
  • Preparing for class (studying, reading, writing, doing homework or lab work, analyzing data, rehearsing, and other academic activities)(16 or more hours/week)(upper-division/senior). Forty-eight percent of senior respondents say they spend 16 or more hours per week preparing for class, but only 10% of faculty members teaching upper-division courses said they think their students do so. 
  • Discussing academic performance with a faculty member (lower-division/first-year). Sixty-one percent of faculty respondents teaching lower-division courses said they discuss their students' academic performance with them very much or quite a bit, but only 26% of first-year student respondents said they had done so.
  • Attending events that address important social, economic, or political issues (upper-division/senior). Seventy-two percent of faculty respondents teaching upper-division courses said that it is important or very important that Miami increase its emphasis on having students attend such events, but only 39% of seniors said Miami emphasizes attending them. 
  • Providing prompt and detailed feedback on tests or completed assignments (lower-division/first-year). Eighty-seven percent of faculty respondents teaching lower-division courses said they provided such feedback very much or quite a bit, but only 54% of first-year students said their instructors had done so. 

Although the number of responses makes disaggregating to the level of all but the largest divisions problematic, further discussions of the University-level results may be useful to better understand these differences and, perhaps, to calibrate expectations. In classes and in division and department meetings that include both faculty members and students, the following questions might serve as useful discussion prompts:

  • Why is it important for Miami to encourage contact among students of different backgrounds?
  • What are some things you or your students have learned as a result of such contact?
  • What are the barriers to greater contact, and what can be done to overcome them? 
  • How are studying and preparing for class different in college than they were in high school?
  • What are some study strategies that you or your students have found to be most effective?
  • What kinds of homework are most useful for helping students learn materials and develop skills?
  • How can meeting with faculty members during their office hours help to improve learning?
  • What are the barriers to students meeting with faculty members to discuss their academic performance, and how can they be overcome?
  • What do faculty members identify as the changes that have been made by those students who have most improved their performance?
  • How can attending campus events where social, economic, or political issues are discussed be useful for students' learning and in life after college?
  • What events can the University offer that students would want to attend, or how can the events that are currently offered to be made more attractive? 
  • What can faculty members do to provide greater linkages to campus events, and what can those who sponsor events do to connect them better to classes?
  • Besides grades, what type of feedback on tests and assignments is most useful for students?
  • What are faculty members' goals for the timing and richness of the feedback you provide to your students, given your full set of responsibilities? 

For a closer inspection of response percentages, please download this excel spreadsheet

The Institutional Effectiveness - Teaching Connection (formerly known as Assessment Briefs) is a collaborative product of the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (OIRE) and the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). The Connection's goal is to translate institutional data into considerations for improving teaching and learning at Miami.