Students give Newman University high marks, show ‘deep learning’ on national survey

Nov 16, 2012

Newman University students are engaged, challenged and highly satisfied with their overall experience at the institution, according to findings in the just-released official report of the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

The NSSE is an annual survey of university freshman and senior students at hundreds of colleges and universities, which is designed to measure students’ engagement with educational activities. Students who participate in the survey are asked to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities, and on their academic and social experiences at the institution they attend.

For the 2012 survey, 206 first-year and senior Newman students responded to questions related to Academic Challenge, Active Learning, Student-Faculty Interaction, Enriching Educational Experience and Supportive Campus Environment. Studies have shown that high levels of engagement in these areas typically lead to high levels of student learning, satisfaction and graduation rates.

Among the highlights of the survey:

  • 95 percent of first-year Newman students and 92 percent of senior Newman students rate their experience at Newman as “good” or “excellent.”
  • 91 percent of first-year students feel the institution places substantial emphasis on academics.
  • 91 percent of first-year students say their faculty are available, helpful and sympathetic.
  • 89 percent of seniors would choose Newman again if they could start their college careers over.
  • 85 percent of first-year students feel that Newman provides substantial support for their academic success.

“We’re very pleased with the results of the 2012 survey,” said Newman Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Austin, Ph.D. “As in previous studies, Newman students excelled in several key areas, indicating a high level of engagement and a substantial commitment to learning. I think this reflects well not only on Newman students, but also on Newman faculty, staff and programs.”

The NSSE report shows national results as well as figures specific to Newman University. Newman students’ results are compared to those at a consortium of Catholic colleges and universities, institutions that are of similar size to Newman, and all students who took part in the survey.

According to survey results, Newman students ranked high in several areas. For example, 84 percent of first-year Newman students discussed ideas from readings or classes with others outside of class, compared to 60 percent of first-year students at the consortium of Catholic institutions, 58 percent at similar size universities, and 59 percent of all students in the survey. Similarly, 71 percent of Newman seniors spent more than 10 hours per week preparing for class,, compared to 61 percent of seniors at the Catholic institutions, 60 percent at similar size schools, and 63 percent of students overall.

Deep Approaches to Learning
Another indicator of student engagement reported in this year’s survey was “Deep Approaches to Learning,” or DAL. Administrators for the survey define DAL as approaches “which help students make richer, more lasting connections to material through an emphasis on activities such as high-order learning, integration, and reflection.” Survey administrators also viewed DAL as an “important measure” of engagement because “students who participated in DAL at higher levels made more purposeful use of their time and were more engaged in other ways.”

The survey showed that participating Newman students scored as well or better than the national average on DAL-related questions. First-year Newman students had a mean score of 67, compared to 63 for other Catholic schools, 60 for similar size institutions, and 61 for all students in the NSSE survey. Senior Newman students had a mean score of 68, which was the same or slightly better than the comparison groups.

Other notable findings in the survey include:

  • 60 percent of Newman seniors worked with other students on projects during class, while 53 percent of seniors in other groups did so.
  • 59 percent of first-year Newman students talked about career plans with a faculty member or advisor, compared to 34 percent of students in other groups.
  • 49 percent of first-year Newman students participated in a learning community, compared to about 18 percent in other groups.

The National Survey of Student Engagement is conducted by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, Bloomington, Ind. About 320,000 students in the United States and Canada participated in the 2012 survey. For more information, visit the NSSE web site.