National Survey of Student Engagement: Results for Canadian universities

Assessing schools on student satisfaction, teaching practices and more
University of Toronto students walk on campus during the first week of the 2017 school year. (Photograph by Della Rollins)

The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) asks first- and senior-year students dozens of specific questions about how they spend their time in and out of the classroom. In 2017, 130,291 students at 72 Canadian schools took part in the American-based survey, for an average response rate of 37 per cent. Maclean’s contacted universities and asked them to share their results.

NSSE is designed to measure student engagement and best educational practices, delivering valuable feedback for university administrators. American and Canadian schools are measured on engagement indicators, such as effective teaching and supportive environment, and high-impact practices such as service learning and study abroad. The higher a school’s scores, the better the chance, according to NSSE, that its undergrads are getting the most out of their university experience.

In addition, NSSE includes two general satisfaction questions, asking students to evaluate their entire education experience and whether they would go to the same school they are currently attending if they could start over.

Engagement indicator results from the 2017 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

NSSE presents 10 engagement indicators organized across 4 major themes: academic challenge; learning with peers; experience with faculty; and campus environment. Each indicator reflects students’ responses to a set of questions relating to these themes.

The following charts show results from the 2017 survey for the 10 NSSE engagement indicators. We have listed the universities in descending order of achievement, according to their senior-year scores. Each chart also gives the NSSE average, which is the average score for all Canadian and U.S. universities and colleges that participated in the 2016 and 2017 surveys.

Scores are on a scale of 60.

Higher-Order Learning
This engagement indicator assesses how often coursework emphasizes such skills as applying facts, analyzing ideas in depth, evaluating points of view, and forming new ideas from various pieces of information.

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Reflective and Integrative Learning

This engagement indicator looks at how students make connections between their studies, their own experiences, and the wider world by asking students how often they connect their learning to social issues, challenge their own beliefs and consider other people’s views. Also measured is how often students combine ideas from different courses.

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Learning Strategies

This engagement indicator recognizes that students experience improved learning and retain more if they actively engage in their course work through such things as identifying key information from reading assignments, reviewing notes after class and summarizing information from class and course materials.

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Quantitative Reasoning

This engagement indicator assesses how often students use numerical information, such as numbers, graphs and statistics, to reach conclusions, examine real-word issues, and evaluate what others have concluded from numerical information.

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Collaborative Learning

This engagement indicator gauges how often students work with other students on course projects or to prepare for exams, as well as how often students explain course material to other students or ask other students for help.

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Discussions with Diverse Others

This engagement indicator gauges opportunities for students to interact with and learn from people with different backgrounds and experiences, including people of different ethnicity, with different religions, economic backgrounds and political beliefs.

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Student-Faculty Interaction

This engagement indicator assesses such things as how often students discuss topics with a faculty member outside class, work with faculty on activities other than coursework, or discuss their academic performance and career plans with faculty.

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Effective Teaching Practices
This engagement indicator assesses how well instructors teach in an organized way, clearly explain course requirements, use examples or illustrations to explain difficult points, and provide prompt and detailed feedback on tests and assignments.

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Quality of Interactions
This engagement indicator assesses if students have positive, supportive relationships with other students, faculty, academic advisors, student services staff and administrative staff.

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Supportive Environment
This engagement indicator assesses how well universities provide support for academic and non-academic endeavours, ranging from tutoring services and writing centres to recreation, health care and counselling. Also measured are opportunities for students to be involved socially at campus events and activities and to interact with students from different backgrounds.

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How Satisfied are Students?

Below are two NSSE questions that are the broadest and most representative of the student experience. Responses are ordered according to the percentage of students who chose the highest level of satisfaction, e.g., “Excellent.” Each chart also gives the NSSE average, which is the average score for all Canadian and U.S. universities and colleges that participated in the 2016 and 2017 surveys.

How would you evaluate your entire educational experience at this institution?

First-year students

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Senior-year students

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If you could start over, would you go to the institution you are now attending?

First-year students

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Senior-year students

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Results for Guelph are for the main University of Guelph campus and Guelph-Humber.
The University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Regina did not conduct NSSE in 2017.
Ten universities that conducted NSSE in 2017 did not provide Maclean’s with results.