National Survey Notes High Levels of Student Engagement

December 21, 2009

(Olympia, Wash.) Students at The Evergreen State College reported higher than average engagement on all benchmark measures of the 2009 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which included academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences, and a supportive campus environment.

First year and Senior Evergreen students surveyed by NSSE scored the college strongly on the NSSE category Academic Challenge. They indicated that they spend more time preparing for class, engaging in coursework that requires synthesizing, analyzing, and making judgments about the value of information. They also reported reading more assigned texts and writing more short papers.

Compared with other first-year and senior-class students who reported to NSSE, Evergreen respondents indicated that they more frequently gave class presentations and contributed to discussions in class. They also indicated that they more often worked with other students on projects during class and outside of class, as well as discussed ideas from reading and classes with others outside of class- all measures of Active and Collaborative Learning. First year students and seniors reported higher levels of Active and Collaborative learning on all measures in this category, as compared to peers, except on the measure of tutoring other students.

In terms of Student-Faculty Interaction, Evergreen students more often discussed ideas from class with faculty members outside of class and received prompt feedback on academic performance. Evergreen first-year students and seniors were significantly more likely to have participated in several enriching educational experiences than students at other colleges and universities, engaging in more independent study and more frequent conversations with students who are different from themselves in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, political opinions, or values.

While the report presented predominately favorable news for Evergreen, Laura Coghlan, Director of Institutional Research notes that student engagement is a continuous process and work remains. According to Coghlan, the report noted that Evergreen first year students are less likely to feel the campus environment helps them cope with their non-academic responsibilities or provides the support they need to thrive socially. Also, Evergreen seniors see quality of relationships as something in need of improvement. "While the good news reinforces that we are meeting our intention of engaging students in an innovative and challenging learning environment," says Coghlan, "we are also reflecting on the implications of lower than average areas and striving to improve them." 

Evergreen participates in the National Survey of Student Engagement as part of its ongoing institutional assessment plan. Six hundred and sixteen four-year U.S. colleges and universities participated in the survey. The National Survey of Student Engagement works on the premise of providing a more complex view of quality, with recognition that holistic assessments of many disaggregated factors provide for more accurate and useful comparisons on issues of concern for student learning than traditional ranking systems.

While Evergreen also does well in traditional regional and national rankings, Evergreen's regular participation in the National Survey of Student Engagement provides additional national context and multi-year trend data through which to examine educational practices, emphases, and challenges. The survey had high participation at Evergreen with a response rate near 25 percent of all first year students and 22 percent of all seniors enrolled.

For more information on NSSE results and trends, visit