US: Students more engaged - survey

Although budget cuts have many educators worried about the quality of education students receive, an annual survey released last week suggests that institutions in the US - large and small, public and private - can achieve significant gains, writes Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed. The National Survey of Student Engagement does not measure learning per se, but a series of qualities of student engagement that are widely believed to correlate with learning, ranging from the rigour of assignments to faculty-student interactions to certain 'high impact' experiences that are praised as making students more engaged, more likely to stay enrolled and graduate, and more likely to learn more.

The theory behind NSSE is that by participating in the surveys of freshmen and seniors, colleges can identify weak points in their practices and construct policies to improve them. Most colleges participate every year or two, with the idea of measuring changes over time to see if those improvements are taking hold. This year, the study found that 41% of institutions showed positive gains in at least one measure for first-year students (with the largest gains seen in measures of active and collaborative learning, and of student-faculty interaction), and 28% saw gains for seniors. Very few institutions saw decreases.
Full report on the Inside Higher Ed site