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Richard Doty

George Kuh

Last modified: Monday, November 25, 2002

National study shows need for improvement in student-faculty relationships

A national study of how college students view their educational experience shows considerable room for improvement in terms of student-faculty relationships.

The 2002 report from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) says 62 percent of first-year students and 47 percent of seniors have never worked with faculty members on activities other than coursework. And 41 percent of first-year students and 26 percent of seniors have never discussed ideas from their reading or classes with faculty members outside of the classroom.

NSSE Director George Kuh, Chancellor's Professor in the Indiana University School of Education and director of the Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning at IU, said these findings reflect a need for colleges and universities to find ways of improving these percentages. "It's gratifying to see the positive change between first-year students and seniors, but there remains substantial room for improvement," Kuh said.

The NSSE report, titled "From Promise to Progress: How Colleges and Universities Are Using Student Engagement Results to Improve Collegiate Quality," is based on information from 135,000 first-year and senior students at 613 four-year colleges and universities. The NSSE Web site is at

Kuh said student engagement deals with how involved a student becomes in his or her college experience. "Many studies show that engagement is a strong predictor of how well a student learns," he explained. "The more engaged students are in college, the more likely they are to develop habits that lead to success later in life."

NSSE measures five benchmarks: (1) level of academic challenge, (2) active and collaborative learning, (3) student-faculty interaction, (4) enriching educational experiences and (5) supportive campus environment.

Other key findings in the NSSE report are:

Experiences with diversity heighten student engagement and overall satisfaction with the college experience.

International students are more engaged overall than American students.

Women majoring in science, engineering and math study more and interact more with faculty members than students in other majors.

About 40 percent of all students spend less time preparing for class than what faculty members say is needed.

About 80 percent of the students rate their overall experience as "good" or "excellent," and about 80 percent would go to the same college if they had it to do over.

Transfer students are generally less engaged in learning activities, which troubles researchers because 40 percent of all seniors do not start college where they graduate.

The NSSE report, now in its third year, is co-sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Pew Forum on Undergraduate Learning. NSSE is supported by grants to Indiana University from Lumina Foundation for Education and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

For more information on NSSE, contact Kuh at 812-856-5824 or