Santa Clara University

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How does the university experience affect students? This is a simple question with a complex answer. It would be impossible for Santa Clara to keep its commitment to students unless it paid careful attention to the following questions:

  • What time and energy do students devote to educationally purposeful activities?
  • How does the University use effective educational practices to channel student energy toward activities that matter?
To help answer these questions and compare our own progress with that of other institutions, Santa Clara freshmen and seniors have participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) for the past 10 years. NSSE, based in Indiana University, annually surveys about 370,000 students nationwide to assess the extent to which undergraduates are involved in educational practices empirically linked to high levels of learning and development.

To simplify the discussion of good learning and teaching behaviors, NSSE developed the following benchmarks of effective educational practice:

  • Level of academic challenge
  • Student-faculty interactions
  • Supportive campus environment
  • Active and collaborative learning
  • Enriching educational experiences
In every benchmark, expressed in a 100-point scale, SCU freshmen and seniors score significantly higher than the national average in the 2009 NSSE results.
Level of Academic Challenge
Challenging intellectual and creative work is central to student learning. SCU promotes a high level of student achievement by emphasizing the importance of academic effort and setting high expectations for performance.

Some specific success indicators:

  • 45 percent of SCU seniors were assigned 11 or more short written papers per course vs. 32 percent of seniors nationwide.
  • 81 percent of SCU seniors learned to analyze quantitative problems either “quite a bit” or “very much” vs. 75 percent of seniors nationwide.
Active and Collaborative Learning

Students learn more when they are intensely involved in their education and are asked to think about what they are learning from different perspectives. Collaborating with others in solving problems or mastering difficult material prepares students for the messy, unscripted problems encountered during and after college.

Some specific success indicators:

  • 86 percent of SCU seniors often or very often worked with classmates outside of class to prepare class assignments vs. 61 percent of seniors nationwide.
  • 31 percent of SCU seniors often or very often tutored or taught other students vs. 21 percent of seniors nationwide.
Student Interaction with Faculty
Students learn firsthand how experts think about and solve practical problems by interacting with faculty members inside and outside the classroom. As a result, their teachers become role models, mentors, and guides for continuous, lifelong learning.

Some specific success indicators:

  • 34 percent of SCU seniors often or very often worked with faculty members on activities other than coursework vs. 22 percent of seniors nationwide.
  • 28 percent of SCU seniors have worked on a research project with a faculty member outside of class vs. 19 percent of seniors nationwide.
Enriching Educational Experience
Complementary learning opportunities enhance academic programs. Technology facilitates collaboration between peers and instructors. Internships, community service, and senior capstone courses provide opportunities to integrate and apply knowledge.

Some specific indicators of success:

  • 76 percent of SCU seniors have participated in community service or volunteer work vs. 59 percent of seniors nationwide.
  • 42 percent of SCU seniors studied abroad vs. 15 percent of seniors nationwide.
Supportive Campus Environment

Students perform better and are more satisfied at institutions that are committed to their success and that cultivate positive working and social relations among different campus groups.

Some specific indicators of success:

  • 72 percent of SCU seniors often or very often exercised or participated in physical fitness activities vs. 55 percent of seniors nationwide.
  • 74 percent of SCU seniors often or very often attended campus events and activities vs. 56 percent of seniors nationwide.

SCU’s strong showing in the 2009 benchmarks underscores its commitment to assess and improve the undergraduate experience.