Previous Essays

Teaching to Lead
Teaching practices that help students develop leadership

Knowing About vs. Knowing How
The challenges of translating what we know about good practices into making our classes, majors, and programs more effective

Clear and Organized Teaching
Why a basic and under-appreciated teaching skill is critical for student learning

Improving Educational Quality
Lessons learned from liberal arts colleges about the conditions that facilitate the use of evidence to improve student learning


NSSE validity and STEM experiences

As you know, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is an essential part of the Wabash Study. Many of the questions about student experiences that predict growth on the study's outcome measures come from NSSE; and the cooperation, advice, and assistance of Jillian Kinzie, Todd Chamberlain, and other people at NSSE has been essential to helping us work through the complicated process of administering the study.

We would like to briefly report on two interesting items related to NSSE. First, at the most recent meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), Tricia Seifert reported on analysis that she and Ernie Pascarella completed to determine whether NSSE benchmarks and scales predicted growth on our outcome measures. The short answer is "yes." NSSE measures experiences that impact many of the Wabash National Study outcomes. (For more information on this analysis, you can download a copy of this paper here.)

Second, the people at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research are developing a series of questions that are designed to measure student experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs. These questions follow below:

NSSE 2009 STEM Items

In your experience at your institution during the current school year, about how often have you done each of the following? (Add to question 1 of NSSE survey eventually)
(Response Set = Very often, Often, Sometimes, Never)
a) Participated in a student chapter of a professional society or organization in your field
b) Worked with other students in groups to solve quantitative problem sets or projects
c) Worked on a project requiring hands-on physical design, sculpting, or modeling
d) Completed an assignment or project that required computer assisted design software (CADD, ECAD,CAE, Photoshop, etc.)

During the current school year, about how much reading and writing have you done? (Add to question 3 of NSSE survey eventually)
(Response Set = None, 1–4, 5–10, 11–20, More than 20)
a) Number of published articles read
b) Number of written papers discussing your methods or findings related to data (from lab or field work, a survey project, etc.)
c) Number of written papers explaining the meaning of numerical or statistical data
d) Number of written papers including graphs, drawings, tables, photos, screen shots, or other visual content
e) Number of written mathematical proofs

Which of the following have you done or do you plan to do before you graduate from your institution? (Add to question 7 of NSSE survey eventually)
(Response Set = Done, Plan to do, Do not plan to do, Have not decided)
a) Participate in a design project/competition (engineering, robotics, architectural, math, art, fashion, etc.)
b) Make a presentation outside of course or program requirements for a prototype/model of a design
c) Make a presentation of my research outside of course or program requirements (such as at a conference, workshop, etc.)
d) Hold an officer position in a student chapter of a professional society or organization
e) Take a computer language or programming course

About how many hours do you spend in a typical 7-day week doing each of the following? (Add to question 9 of NSSE survey eventually)
(Response Set = 0, 1–5, 6–10, 11–15, 16–20, 21–25, 26–30, More than 30)
a) Preparing for and working in labs, studios, and design workshops
b) Completing quantitative homework problem sets
c) Completing quantitative problem sets worked with other students
d) Completing quantitative problem sets worked individually

To what extent has your experience at this institution contributed to your knowledge, skills, and personal development in the following areas? (Add to question 11 of NSSE survey eventually)
(Response Set =Very much, Quite a bit, Some, Very little)
a) Designing and conducting experiments
b) Interpreting results from an experiment
c) Understanding technical codes and standards
d) Recognizing when to use a formula, algorithm, or other method of calculation
e) Modeling complex systems
f) Representing data visually (models, graphs, tables, etc.)

Jillian Kinzie, Alex McCormick, and the other people who are responsible for NSSE are very interested in your feedback on these questions. We, and they, would appreciate it if you would post any comments you have about these questions on our blog. We would also welcome any comments or questions you have about the NSSE validation study. We have noted a distinct lack of activity on our blog, so to inspire those among you who seek caffeination, we will send a $10 Starbucks gift certificate to the first two people who post a response to this piece, and a $5 gift certificate to anyone thereafter who responds before December 1.

Have a good Thanksgiving!

CB and KW