Above: In an example of the type of faculty-student interaction winning high marks in the National Survey of Student Engagement Rob Young (left), director of WCU’s Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, guides WCU students on a trip to the South Carolina coastline to study beach erosion issues.
Western Carolina University’s efforts to ensure that students are fully engaged in the process of learning, both in and out of the classroom, earned high marks on a national survey measuring the quality of undergraduate education based upon student involvement with their studies, professors and campus communities.
Results from the National Survey of Student Engagement released today (Monday, Nov. 5) indicate that WCU students are more academically engaged than their peers at colleges and universities across the United States. The 2007 NSSE (pronounced “Nessie”) report is based on information from about 323,000 randomly selected first-year and senior students at 610 four-year colleges and universities in the United States and Canada.
The report shows Western outperformed 17 peer institutions of similar size and mission (as categorized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching) in all five benchmark categories – active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, level of academic challenge, supportive campus environment, and enriching education experiences, said Melissa Wargo, director of assessment.
“Compared to all colleges in the survey, regardless of their size and mission, we also score better on level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, and supportive campus environment,” Wargo said. For first-year students, Western was among the top 50 percent nationally for active and collaborative learning, and student-faculty interaction.
“These results are outstanding, especially when you consider that the NSSE benchmarks reflect educational practices that have been consistently linked with higher levels of student learning and development,” Wargo said.
Among the survey results:
-- Fifty-four percent of WCU seniors reported they had participated in a practicum, internship, field experience, cooperative education position or clinical experience, compared to 49 percent at peer institutions.
-- Ninety percent of WCU first-year students reported working on a paper or project that required integrating information from a variety of sources, compared to 76 percent at peer institutions and 75 percent nationally.
-- Twenty percent of WCU first-year students participated in a service learning activity as part of a course, compared to 13 percent at peer institutions and 12 percent nationally. Twenty-four percent of WCU seniors took part in service learning, compared to 20 percent at peer institutions and 17 percent nationally.
-- Twenty-one percent of WCU first-year students worked with faculty on activities other than coursework, compared to 14 percent at peer institutions and 14 percent nationally. Twenty-nine percent of WCU seniors worked with professors outside of course requirements, compared to 23 percent at peer institutions and 21 percent nationally.
-- Seventy-nine percent of WCU first-year students gave their professors high marks for being available and helpful, compared to 70 percent at peer institutions and 73 percent nationally.
In addition, WCU has one of the highest percentages of students participating in undergraduate research, sending finalists to the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research every year in the recent past. Eleven percent of WCU’s first-year students had already worked with a faculty member on a research project outside of course or program requirements, compared to only 5 percent at peer institutions or nationally.
“We are pleased to see that our students understand the value of working closely with professors on research projects,” said WCU Provost Kyle Carter. “Students learn more when they are actively involved in their education, and undergraduate research provides important hands-on experience that pays off not just in terms of learning, but also when students graduate and go out into the world and begin their careers.”
Now in its eighth year, NSSE is sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation. The survey is designed to give schools an idea of how well their students are learning, and to provide a measure of what students put into and get out of their undergraduate experience.
The NSSE findings come as Western is implementing a new Quality Enhancement Plan, a comprehensive roadmap for institutional improvement focused on academic engagement and integration of learning. In addition, WCU’s new tenure, promotion and reappointment policy, approved in September, will make it possible to reward professors for engaging with the community and sharing their scholarly expertise to help solve regional problems.
For more information about engaged learning at WCU, visit www.wcu.edu/engagement.
Above: In an example of the type of faculty-student interaction winning high marks in the National Survey of Student Engagement, Kathy Mathews (second from right), assistant professor of biology at WCU, points out aspects of rivercane to WCU students (from left) Adam Griffith, Katie McDowell and Sharhonda Bell.
Read USA Today's article on WCU and other universities' NSSE results
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Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007