November 26, 2018
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Results of the National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) show that Kenyon students highly rate their overall experience at the College and that the vast majority would choose to attend Kenyon again.
According to the survey, Kenyon students — especially seniors — spend more time preparing for class than students at other schools participating in the NSSE. In addition, students rate the quality of their interaction with other students and faculty members very high. Ninety-five percent of Kenyon first-year students would definitely or probably attend the College again, compared with 86 percent of students at peer institutions, while 90 percent of Kenyon seniors would want to attend Kenyon again, compared with 84 percent of students at peer institutions.
“What the survey shows is that, over the course of their four years at Kenyon, our students come to have a very good learning experience that they very much appreciate,” Provost Joseph Klesner said.
The NSSE also shows that Kenyon students frequently participate in high-impact practices such as studying abroad, conducting research with faculty or culminating senior projects.
The NSSE collects information at hundreds of colleges and universities about student participation in activities, programs and classroom experiences that promote engagement in their learning and personal development. The results provide a way to understand the quality of the educational experience students are receiving. Institutions use the data, which can be narrowed further to compare to peer colleges and universities, to identify aspects of the undergraduate experience that can be improved.
“It gives us a good understanding of where we are compared to our peers and compared to the national college and university system on getting our students engaged with their education,” Erika Farfan, director of institutional research, said. “It’s a little bit different than some surveys that emphasize outcomes because sometimes we don’t know what leads to that outcome.”
Kenyon participates in the survey every three years, capturing data from first-years and seniors that gives the College a glimpse into how experiences change among the same class during the course of their college career.
Where the College scores slightly lower than peer institutions is in the area of community or service-based learning, which NSSE considers another high-impact area.
“One of the very clear impressions from the survey is that Kenyon students, like those at other peer institutions, very much want to have a role in community service,” Klesner said. “More faculty are incorporating service learning components into their classroom, like the formal service requirements in the Latino/Latina studies concentration.”
Another low score for Kenyon was that only 41 percent of seniors said they felt the College taught them job- or work-related knowledge and skills. However, seniors overwhelmingly said they learned how to think critically, write and speak clearly and effectively and work with others, transferable skills that most jobs require.
“There is a tendency to think of the more general, analytical skills and communication skills that our students are perfecting as not being narrow job-based skills,” Klesner said. “That’s erroneous understanding.”
Working to change that perception is a goal. Results of the NSSE, which are publicly available, are furthering discussions about changes that might be appropriate at Kenyon, especially as part of the College’s 2020 strategic plan that emphasizes the need for service-based learning and a cohesive first-year experience.
“I wouldn’t say there is one question that results in one action,” Farfan said. “But usually this evidence is used to support change.”