Grand Valley State University

NSSE 2005


Executive Summary

Sep 29, 2005


As part of the Claiming a Liberal Education initiative, GVSU participated in the 2004-05 administrations of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE). The NSSE is a nationally normed survey designed to assess the extent to which students are engaged in educationally effective activities. The FSSE is a companion survey intended to measure faculty expectations of student engagement in those activities. Combined they are intended to measure how much the environment at a particular institution is conducive to higher learning.


Both questionnaires were administered in electronic form during the winter term of 2005. The NSSE survey is administered to both freshmen and seniors, while the FSSE is intended for all faculty who teach undergraduates. Following is a summary of our response rates:



Number invited to participate

Number of participants















This report presents a synopsis of areas where significant differences exist between GVSU's student responses and those of students from peer institutions[1]. The most important themes are discussed in the following paragraphs, and greater detail is presented in the body of the report. "Importance" is judged in terms of differences between our students' responses and those from peer schools, not institutional priorities. Of course, the themes are interrelated and subjective -- this is merely one way of making sense of the data, and other valid interpretations are possible.


In general, our freshmen respond similarly to freshmen at the peer institutions. Of much greater concern are the many items for which our seniors' responses indicate less engagement and growth than their peers at the comparison campuses. Most of the themes that emerge from the data (with the possible exception of "Writing") are indications that improvements are warranted.


Gains from College





Peer Socialization


Faculty Involvement with Students


Academic Rigor

˙         Seniors report below-average expectations in their courses at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (memorizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating). The difference is largest for memorization tasks.

˙         Freshmen report above-average involvement in projects that require integrating ideas from multiple sources.

˙         Freshmen are more likely to come to class unprepared and report that they spend less time preparing for class, compared to freshmen at our peers. Seniors indicate lower institutional emphasis on time spent studying.


Co-curricular Activities




Practical Learning




Community Service


Bearing in mind that the magnitude of the differences is small and the peer group is relatively ambitious, these results still depict a substantial amount of progress yet to be made. It is recommended that the data be used as a guide for institutional changes to improve student engagement and as benchmarks so that progress can be assessed using future administrations of the NSSE. Representatives from the Provost's office and the Claiming a Liberal Education initiative have already begun a process of translating these findings into actions that can improve the engagement and learning of our students. A widespread acknowledgement and appreciation of these NSSE results throughout the university is likely to be a critical step toward realizing improvements. These findings can stimulate productive discussion throughout the university about where we are and what it will take to get to where we want to be.


[1] Cal Poly -- San Luis Obispo; College of Charleston; CUNY Baruch College; James Madison U; Murray State U; Salisbury U; SUNY Oneonta; College of New Jersey; Towson U; Truman State U; UNC Wilmington.