On Tuesday, April 2nd, all Wake Forest instructors received an email from researchers working on the “National Survey of Student Engagement” (aka NSSE), inviting them to complete a *Faculty* survey of student engagement. In this post, the CAT’s Director of Research, Karen Singer-Freeman, explains what the FSSE is, how it can be used alongside the NSSE, and why it’s important to have high participation from all instructors.

Introduced in 2000 by the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) emerged as a groundbreaking initiative measuring the extent to which students engage in educational practices associated with high levels of learning and personal development. This survey, administered to first-year students and seniors, is widely used across institutions in the United States and beyond. The Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) was introduced in 2003 to offer a complementary perspective by capturing faculty perceptions of student engagement. Together, these surveys shape national conversations around effective pedagogical strategies, institutional improvement, and the overall quality of the collegiate experience. Over the years, the NSSE and FSSE have not only provided benchmarks for assessing educational quality but have also facilitated meaningful dialogue and evidence-based decision-making. 

Since 2003, more than 304,000 instructional staff from 870 institutions have participated in FSSE. Wake Forest joined this group in 2022, when the FSSE was administered by the Office of Institutional Research to all Reynolda Campus faculty (N = 1,020). A total of 279 responses were submitted, representing a 27% response rate. The respondents were not representative of the faculty when comparing distributions across schools. 85% of respondents were from the College or ZSR, although they represent only 67% of the instructional population on the Reynolda campus. The remaining 15% of respondents were from the Graduate School (6%), Business (5%), and Law (4%). These schools make up 13%, 10%, and 8% of the instructional population respectively. Although not fully representative, the results are available here and can spark interesting discussions on teaching, learning, and the overall quality of our undergraduates’ educational journey. 

Faculty Work Hard: Faculty work hard to be teacher-scholars. On average, faculty spend 19 hours each week on teaching-related work, 3.5 additional hours advising, 9.5 hours conducting research, and 7 hours doing service. Notably, faculty indicated spending, on average, twice as many hours per week on teaching activities compared to research, creative, or scholarly activities. This sheds light on the dedication to fostering a rich and engaging learning experience for students.  

Faculty Feel Teaching Is Well-Supported: As a member of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching, I was gratified to see that 92% of respondents agreed that they know where to go for help with teaching at Wake. More than 80% of faculty reported that they have the time they need to prepare for class, have the necessary resources for effective teaching, and believe that the environments in which they teach are conducive to quality teaching. 

Emphasis on Effective Teaching Practices: The Effective Teaching Practices content area measures the extent to which instructors provide clear expectations and organization, use illustrative examples, and provide formative and effective feedback. Responses are on a 60-point metric with scores of 40 or more indicating faculty viewed an item as important. Faculty at Wake Forest rated three areas of practice as being important: Effective Teaching Practices (average score of 46.8), Reflective & Integrative Learning (average score of 42.2), and Higher-Order Learning (average score of 41.0). These scores indicate a strong commitment to fostering an environment that encourages critical thinking, reflection, and effective teaching methodologies. Impressively, fewer than one in five respondents (17%) reported that their coursework emphasized memorizing course material. This suggests a pedagogical approach that values understanding and critical thinking over rote memorization. Faculty also reported a variety of teaching approaches, with a majority (90%) agreeing that they “use a variety of teaching techniques to accommodate diversity in student approaches to learning.” This diversity in teaching methods aligns with the commitment to meeting the varied needs and learning styles of students and helps to explain why our seniors report such strong learning gains in the NSSE (see last week’s blog).

Importance of High-Impact Practices: Faculty indicated a strong belief in the importance of High-Impact Practices (HIPs) for undergraduates. Approximately four in five faculty agreed that it is crucial for students to participate in experiences such as internships, capstone courses, and study abroad programs. This insight reinforces the commitment to providing students with transformative and immersive learning experiences.

A Need for Increased Student Support: The faculty indicated that it was important for the institution to increase support for students with many reporting there should be increased encouragement of contact among students from different backgrounds (90%), support to help students succeed academically (83%), support for student’s overall well-being (82%), support for using learning support services (75%), and opportunities for students to be involved socially (72%).

Faculty Feel Good at Wake: The survey revealed positive sentiments among Wake Forest faculty. A significant majority, 83%, agreed or strongly agreed that they feel comfortable “being myself” at Wake. Similarly, 81% feel valued by Wake, and 74% feel like they are part of the Wake community. These positive indicators reflect a supportive and inclusive environment within the university.

Areas for Growth: The survey also identified areas for improvement, particularly in Discussions with Diverse Others. Faculty reported that students rarely have opportunities to discuss issues with students from different racial or ethnic groups, political affiliations, socioeconomic groups, or religions. This insight signals an opportunity for us to enhance inclusivity, encourage diverse perspectives, and create a more enriching learning space for all.

We are hoping to have a higher response rate to our upcoming FSSE survey. With a higher response rate, we will be able to explore differences within Wake Forest more deeply. Nonetheless, as I read over some of the findings, here were some of the ways I thought they might direct our growth as an institution. 

Curriculum Refinement: Given our value of Effective Teaching Practices, we have an opportunity to find ways to further distinguish ourselves from our peers by ensuring that every class and instructor is teaching at the highest level.

Hands-On Learning: Our value for High-Impact Practices highlights the importance of providing students with hands-on experiences, reinforcing theoretical knowledge with practical applications for a more well-rounded education.

Community Connection: The positive sentiments expressed by faculty underscore a strong sense of belonging, contributing to a thriving community. Strengthening this connection further can enhance the overall educational experience for both faculty and students.

Inclusive Dialogue: Addressing the identified areas for improvement in Discussions with Diverse Others provides a pathway for fostering open dialogue, encouraging diverse perspectives, and cultivating an inclusive learning environment.

The FSSE survey email invitation arrived in inboxes on April 2nd. We encourage all faculty and instructors who teach to participate. Your insights will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of student engagement at Wake Forest. If you’d like a sneak peek at the survey items, you can find a copy of the questions for undergraduate instructors here, and graduate-only instructors here.

Thank you for your unwavering dedication to our students and your commitment to continuous improvement. Let’s collectively enhance the educational experience at Wake Forest!

Happy surveying!