Eastern Kentucky exceeds benchmark institutions on several student engagement measures


RICHMOND – Eastern Kentucky University exceeds similar benchmark institutions and other comparison groups on several measures related to student engagement.

According to the 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), EKU seniors ranked the University especially high on effective teaching practices, quality of interactions, and two areas related to level of academic challenge: higher-order learning and quantitative reasoning. In fact, Eastern scored ahead of its benchmarks, national norms and southeast public universities in all those categories except quantitative reasoning, where it eclipsed its benchmarks and national average. Seniors also ranked EKU ahead of its benchmarks in supportive environment.

First-year students also rated Eastern higher than its benchmark institutions in higher-order learning and collaborative learning and ahead of the national norm in learning strategies.

In most other areas, EKU’s scores, among both seniors and first-time students, were roughly identical to the University’s benchmarks and comparison groups.

The NSSE survey, launched in 2000 and updated in 2013, assesses the extent to which students engage in educational practices associated with high levels of learning and development. The questionnaire collects information in five categories: 1) participation in dozens of educationally purposeful activities, 2) institutional requirements and the challenging nature of coursework, 3) perceptions of the college environment, 4) estimates of educational and personal growth since starting college, and 5) background and demographic information.

The survey also showed that the percentage of EKU first-year students and seniors who rated their experience as “excellent” or “good” and who said they would “definitely” or “probably” choose to attend the institution again given the opportunity exceeded the average for benchmarks, southeast public institutions and the nation. In each case, 87-89 percent of the first-year students and seniors responded affirmatively.

Higher-order learning (for which EKU rated “significantly” ahead of its benchmarks) refers to how much coursework emphasizes applying facts, theories, or methods to practical problems or solutions; analyzing an idea, experience or line of reasoning in depth by examining its parts; evaluating a point of view, decision or information source; and forming a new idea or understanding from various pieces of information. The high rank reflects EKU’s Quality Enhancement Plan, dating to 2006, which calls for the University to develop “informed, critical and creative thinkers who communicate effectively.”

Effective teaching practices, according to NSSE, include clearly explained course goals and requirements, courses taught in organized fashion, the use of examples and illustrations to explain difficult points, feedback on works in progress, and prompt and detailed feedback on tests or completed assignments.

Quality of interactions, in the Campus Environment category, encompasses interactions with fellow students, academic advisers, faculty, and student services and other administrative staff.

Learning strategies refers to students being able to identify key information from reading assignments, review notes after class and summarize what they learn in class or from course materials.

Quantitative reasoning refers to students learning to reach conclusions based on their own analysis of numerical information, use that numerical information to examine real-world problems and issues, and evaluate what others have concluded from numerical information.

NSSE Director Dr. Alexander McCormick said institutions that prioritize student success are marked by a “positive restlessness” and the mindset that “success is everyone’s job and continuous improvement is informed by data. The NSSE survey … continues to accumulate important evidence about activities and practices that foster learning and development.”

In a foreword to NSSE’s 2014 report, Dr. Muriel Howard, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, noted: “In the top-performing institutions, there was a commitment to student success, and responsibility for that success was placed on the institution and its staff. This institutional commitment engaged the entire campus community. Student success is built on a student-centered culture.”

The NSSE survey is sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. To view the complete EKU results, visit oie.eku.edu/university-level-assessment.

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