University of Georgia seniors who participated in a national survey of college students are generally more pleased with their overall educational experience than their counterparts at other major research universities and would be more likely than their peers to attend the same school if they started college over again.
UGA was among more than 500 four-year colleges and universities participating in the 2005 National Survey of Student Engagement, administered by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. The national survey has been conducted annually since 2000; UGA previously participated in 2003.
“UGA first participated in NSSE two years ago to help assess how effectively we are engaging our students in the classroom and to learn more about how they spend their time outside the classroom,” says Del Dunn, vice president for instruction. “This year’s survey asked similar questions.”
Nationally, more than 237,000 first-year and senior students answered questions about their participation in programs and activities that their schools provide for their learning and personal development. At UGA, 2,000 randomly selected first-year students and 2,000 seniors were contacted to take the online survey. Nearly 40 percent responded, which is the average institutional response rate nationally.
In addition to gathering information about national trends, NSSE provides comparative data to participating institutions to help them identify aspects of the undergraduate experience that might be improved through changes in policies and practices.
“Certainly the 2003 NSSE data was helpful to the Task Force on General Education and Student Learning that we convened in fall 2004,” says Arnett C. Mace Jr., senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “As the task force recommendations are implemented over time, we will have data available to measure our results.”
Comparisons between UGA students’ 2003 and 2005 responses already show some differences.
Seniors in the 2005 survey reported making more class presentations, coming to class less often unprepared, working more with other students on projects during class or outside of class, and more often putting together concepts from different classes in assignments and discussions compared to their counterparts in 2003.
Seniors also reported receiving more prompt feedback on their performance, less emphasis on memorization, reading more books on their own, completing more problem sets, and taking more challenging examinations. They also indicated growth in their ability to analyze quantitative problems, using computing and information technology, voting, understanding complex world problems and contributing to the welfare of their community. Overall, seniors evaluated their academic advising higher than two years ago and rated more highly their entire educational experience.
First-year students in the 2005 survey when compared with those in the 2003 survey were more likely to work with other students during and outside of class, work with faculty on activities other than course work, put together concepts from different classes in assignments and discussions, work harder to meet faculty expectations, work for pay both on and off campus, receive quicker feedback on papers and presentations, more often write papers 20 pages or more, complete more problem sets, and spend less time socializing and watching television and more time on community-based projects.
In personal growth, 2005 first-year students were more likely than those in 2003 to learn to speak clearly and effectively, use computing and information technology, and work effectively with others. They also report that they were more likely to vote, understand people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, understand complex world problems, and contribute to the welfare of their communities.
UGA student responses also were compared with responses from students at other large state universities that are considered peer or “aspirational” institutions. Compared with these students, UGA first-year students and seniors were more likely to put together ideas or concepts from different courses when completing assignments or during class discussions; participate in a community-based project (e.g. service learning) as part of a regular course; discuss grades or assignments with an instructor; discuss grades or assignments with an instructor; and use an electronic medium to discuss or complete an assignment.
But, in some areas relating to academic rigor, problem areas that surfaced in 2003 were still evident in 2005. UGA students continued to report a lower number of reading assignments, fewer writing assignments, and studying or spending less time on academic work than their counterparts at peer and aspirational institutions.
“These findings were noted in the Report of the Task Force on General Education and Student Learning that was completed in August 2005,” says Dunn. “As an institution, we are working to implement the recommendations of the report to address the need for improvement identified by these surveys.”