The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is an annual survey sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and is recognized as one of the most reliable assessments of effective practices in higher education. The survey asks student respondents (first-years and seniors) to reflect on the time they devote to various educational and co-curricular activities that have been shown to be linked to learning, personal development, and other desired outcomes such as satisfaction, persistence and college completion.
Sweet Briar College has been an active participant in NSSE since its inception in 2001. Based on the high levels of student engagement reported by Sweet Briar students, the College was selected as one of 20 colleges for the Documenting Effective Educational Practice (DEEP) Project and was featured in the book, “Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter.” The College continued to participate in NSSE and students regularly gave their experiences at Sweet Briar high marks across each of the five Benchmarks of Excellence: Level of Academic Challenge, Active and Collaborative Learning, Student Interaction with Faculty Members, Enriching Educational Experiences and Supportive Campus Environment. On each of the benchmarks, seniors consistently rated Sweet Briar near or — more often than not — above the averages for other women’s colleges, liberal arts institutions, and all NSSE participants combined, including public universities.
In 2013, NSSE was redesigned to include expanded and refined coverage of student engagement in effective educational practices, new summary measures of student engagement and high-impact practices, and coverage of optional topics of special interest to institutions including academic advising and technology. The College has participated annually in NSSE since 2013 and uses the results to highlight the exceptional education and engagement of students at Sweet Briar College.
Sweet Briar seniors consistently report their engagement above the average levels for seniors from other women’s colleges, liberal arts institutions, and all NSSE participants combined, including public universities in the following areas:
- Being challenged academically by faculty who exemplify effective teaching practices in courses rich with reflective and integrative learning activities.
- Participating in two or more highly impactful educational experiences such as conducting research with a faculty member, internships or other real-word practical experiences outside of the classroom, study abroad and student leadership opportunities.
- Experiencing increased knowledge, skills and development in writing and speaking clearly and effectively, and thinking critically and analytically.
- Having high levels of engagement and quality interactions with faculty, as well as academic advisors, both in and outside the classroom.
- Learning from peers through frequent discussions with students and community members from different backgrounds and different belief systems.
- Feeling supported by a campus that provides resources and learning support services to help students succeed academically.
- Frequently attending an art exhibit or other arts performance (dance or music) and having more opportunities to attend campus activities and events.