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Student Engagement and CCSSE

Community colleges use CCSSE to collect data about student engagement on their campuses and then use those data to improve student learning and persistence. Once colleges have data about students’ experiences, they can begin making decisions based on evidence — rather than suppositions — about what works for their students.

All CCSSE work is grounded in a large body of research about what works in strengthening student learning and persistence. Research shows that the more actively engaged students are — with college faculty and staff, with other students, and with the subject matter they study

  • the more likely they are to learn, to stick with

their studies, and to attain their academic goals.

The CCSSE survey focuses on institutional practices and student behaviors that promote student engagement. The Center for Community College Student Engagement works with participating colleges to administer the survey, which measures students’ levels of engagement in a variety of areas. The colleges then receive their survey results, along with guidance and analyses they can use to improve their programs and services for students.

Each year, CCSSE includes five special-focus survey items that examine an area of student experience and institutional performance. These five items address a different topic each year and are separate from the core survey, which does not change. The 2009 special-focus survey items explore the use of technology for making connections.

CCSSE data analyses for the core survey items include a three-year cohort of participating colleges. Using a three-year cohort increases the number of institutions and students in the national data set, optimizes representation of institutions by size and location, and therefore increases the stability of the overall results.

The 2009 CCSSE Cohort includes more than 400,000 students from 663 colleges that participated in CCSSE in 2007, 2008, and 2009. For colleges that participated more than once in this three-year period, the cohort includes data only from the most recent year of participation.


2009 Findings

Carried through all college policies and procedures, from admission and nancial aid services to class scheduling, teaching practices, student support services, and so forth.

Visible in every contact with a student or potential student, starting with outreach to local high schools and continuing through day-to-day interactions with students in classrooms, on campus, and online.

Cognizant of and relevant to student needs. Apparent in all communications — face-to-face, print, and electronic.

Colleges that successfully engage students do not merely set up classrooms on a campus and say, “Come here.” ey meet students where they are — literally, guratively, and virtually — and help them get where they need to be.

In focus groups, students oen reect on the importance of relevant, personal connec- tions. For example, when discussing a tutoring center with a one-size-ts-all approach, one student observes, “ey probably are there to help, but I need somebody that’s going to be more interested in my situation.”

But faculty and sta members can demonstrate a commitment to connecting with students — to understanding and acting on their situations — in many ways, big and small. As one sta member in a focus group describes, “You can stop them in the hall- way and ask, ‘Do you need assistance? Do you know where the bookstore is?’ If not, take them. If you show just a little bit of interest, then they’re already bonded with someone on campus, so if they have a problem, they feel comfortable coming back to you.”

Students consistently report that gestures like these make a lasting dierence: “I was alone when I came here. It was the rst time I’d been on my own since high school. And I didn’t really know where to go. But the lady at the front oce helped me through everything even though it wasn’t her department. She walked me down to the nancial aid oce, walked me down to get my classes set up.”

Colleges Making Connections

Prince George’s Community College (MD) created six Collegian Centers that provide an academic “place to belong” outside the classroom and give students opportunities to interact with faculty and other students with similar interests. Organized by discipline, the centers provide opportunities for mentoring and career exploration. For example, participants in a Collegian Center for students interested in criminal justice have visited the University of Maryland to see the dollhouses that are used to teach crime scene investigation, attended seminars on current legal issues, and visited a DNA exhibit at a local science museum.

East Georgia College (GA) unites its student engagement eorts under the theme “Education with a Personal Touch.” e college recently launched a comprehensive, student-focused customer service process, which features a new student services complex. e complex houses enrollment, business, counseling, and student life oces, providing a one-stop shop for a variety of student services and serving as a gathering place. East Georgia College has used CCSSE to monitor the success of these and other campus initiatives since 2005.

Making Connections: Dimensions of Student Engagement

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