Olin College Again Gets High Marks for Student Engagement in National Survey

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The results of the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), an annual effort that asks students at hundreds of four-year colleges and universities to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities, show that Olin College scores higher on key educational benchmarks than institutions in its selected comparison groups.

Olin College has once again scored higher than its peer institutions on five key measures of student engagement in a national survey of effective educational practices.

The results of the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), an annual effort that asks students at hundreds of four-year colleges and universities to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities, show that Olin scores higher on key educational benchmarks than institutions in its selected comparison groups. Olin’s comparison groups include other private institutions in New England, institutions in its Carnegie Class and NSSE institutions as a whole.

The students’ answers are grouped into five “benchmarks” representing areas shown by researchers to be linked to success in college. The five benchmarks are Level of Academic Challenge, Active Learning, Student/Faculty Interaction, Enriching Educational Experiences and Supportive Campus Environment.

Among the benchmark items that stood out in Olin students’ responses were their answers to the questions “What types of thinking do assignments require?” (97 percent said “synthesizing and organizing ideas” as opposed to 11 percent who said “memorizing facts, ideas or methods.”); “Do students work together on projects inside and outside of class?” (100 percent said yes), “How many students work on research projects with faculty?”(77 percent); and “Are faculty members accessible and supportive?” (73 percent said yes).

“I am very pleased at Olin’s results in the 2010 NSSE survey,” said Olin President Richard K. Miller. “Our student-centered approach to curriculum and community building is geared toward giving students a remarkable degree of ownership of the educational process. I believe these results demonstrate that this approach leads to much more effective learning.”

Survey items on the College Student Report, the instrument NSSE uses to collect its data, represent empirically confirmed "good practices" in undergraduate education. They reflect behaviors by students and institutions that are associated with desired outcomes of college. NSSE doesn’t assess student learning directly, but survey results point to areas where colleges and universities are performing well and aspects of the undergraduate experience that could be improved. The annual NSSE survey is one of the most widely respected gauges of effective educational practices in the country. This is the seventh year Olin has participated in the survey.

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