Salem Shines in National Student Engagement Survey
Salem College students have given their institution high marks according to a report released this fall by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).
Both first-year students and seniors rated Salem highly in all five benchmark areas:
- level of academic challenge
- active and collaborative learning
- student-faculty interaction
- enriching educational experiences
- supportive campus environment
The 2008 NSSE report is based on information gathered last spring from about 478,079 first-year and senior students at 769 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. Entitled “Experiences That Matter: Enhancing Student Learning and Success,” the NSSE study gives schools an idea of how well their students are learning and what they put into and get out of their undergraduate experience. Every first-year student and senior at Salem was given the opportunity to participate in the survey.
The NSSE project does not rank institutions. Schools receive their students’ scores on the five benchmarks and some comparative information for similar types of schools (Salem was compared with a group made up of women’s colleges — including Peace, Meredith, Mt. Holyoke, Converse, Wellesley and Smith — and a group consisting of liberal arts colleges and universities). Also received are national averages established by results from the entire pool of 769 four-year institutions that participated in the survey.
Salem seniors rated their experience higher in active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment than did students at the other women’s colleges, liberal arts colleges and the coeducational colleges that took part in the survey. They also gave kudos to Salem for providing them with these experiences:
- Tutoring or teaching other students (paid or voluntary)
- Participating in a community based project (e.g. service learning) as part of a regular course
- Receiving advice on career plans from a faculty member or advisor
- Working harder than they thought they could to meet an instructor’s standards or perspectives
- Having serious conversations with students who were very different from them in terms of their religious beliefs, political opinions or personal values
Salem’s first-year students gave their highest marks on these experiences:
- Asking questions in class or contributing to class discussions
- Working on a paper or project that required integrating ideas or information from various sources
- Including diverse perspectives (different races, religions, genders, etc.) in class discussions or writing assignments
- Working with other students on projects during class
- Working with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments
There were several areas in which both groups of Salem students reported significant gains as compared to evaluations for 2005, the last year that Salem participated in the survey. They were:
- Attending an art exhibit, play, dance, music, theatre or other performance
- Participating in activities to enhance spirituality (worship, mediation, etc.)
- Thinking critically and analytically
Finally, the survey offered insight into students’ experiences at a women’s college. Salem seniors ranked Salem above their counterparts at other women’s colleges in 15 of 20 categories. Particularly strong were Salem students’ opinions that:
- Attending a women’s college helped them understand the social, economic and political realities facing women today.
- Faculty and/or staff encouraged them to consider graduate or professional study
- Faculty, staff and peers had held them to high expectations and challenged them to stretch themselves intellectually
- The college provided an environment that was supportive of people of various cultures/ethnic backgrounds.
- Salem provided many opportunities for experiential learning, such as internships and field work.