Students in psychology professor Douglas Maynard’s fall ’14 Psychological Statistics II course worked with 2011 and 2014 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) datasets for SUNY New Paltz and presented their findings to an audience of faculty and campus administrators this winter.
The NSSE is a survey used by institutions of higher learning across the country. It poses questions to first-year and graduation-year students as a way of measuring what new students expect from the college or university they choose to attend, and how exiting students perceive those expectations were met. SUNY New Paltz conducts NSSE surveys every three years and uses the data to identify aspects of the undergraduate experience, in and out of the classroom, that can be improved.
Maynard highlighted the value of allowing students to participate in that process. “I believe that this was a challenging and engaging project for my students in large part because they were working with an actual dataset with relevance to the college they attend, and had the opportunity to present their findings in front of campus leaders interested in the kinds of questions they were asking,” he said.
With assistance from Lucy Walker, assistant vice president for institutional research, Maynard’s class compared student responses gathered from the surveys with data on graduation and retention. This gave them the chance to draw conclusions about real student outcomes at New Paltz.
Among the findings presented by these students were the following:
- Students who discussed grades or assignments with faculty and received prompt feedback on their work were more likely to have a stronger perception of their own ability to think critically and analytically and to learn independently.
- Students who felt challenged academically and felt they worked hard to prepare for class and complete assignments were more likely to remain at the College through graduation.
- Students who perceived that the College and campus encouraged diversity were more likely to interact with fellow students of different backgrounds.
In his January 2015 report to the College faculty, President Donald Christian highlighted the value of the analyses performed by these students, writing that they “both underscore the importance of what we do so well and provide direction to build on those strengths as we advance academic and student-life goals of our strategic plan.”
More information about the NSSE and its application at SUNY New Paltz is available online.