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Annual Report: Community College Survey of Student Engagement

November 27, 2006

The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) recently released its 2006 annual report. I learned of the release from an insidehighered.com story by Elizabeth Redden. CCSSE is an organization focused on the following (from its website):

– “Community colleges have long distinguished themselves through their efforts to put students first and their emphasis on teaching and learning. Innovations in curriculum, teaching strategies, and support services for students are hallmarks of these institutions. . . . Today, community colleges are being asked to rise to new challenges. . . . To respond effectively to these challenges, community and technical colleges need assessment tools appropriate to their unique missions and the characteristics of their diverse student populations. . . . (CCSSE) is meeting that need. . . . CCSSE was established in 2001 as a project of the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Major grants from the Houston Endowment, the Lumina Foundation for Education, the MetLife Foundation, and The Pew Charitable Trusts have supported the work. CCSSE works in partnership with NSSE, a survey that focuses on four-year colleges and universities. Established in 1998, NSSE is directed by George Kuh and headquartered at Indiana University in the Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning.” [Aside: I reported on NSSE’s annual report a few weeks ago.]

My goal in re-presenting CCSSE’s data here is to draw your eye to some important numbers.

Highlights from CCSSE’s 2006 report

CCSSE found that community college students are less engaged than full-time students. This is no surprise, except now we (instructors, professionals, etc.) have some solid numbers to back up the facts:
— “17% of part-time students versus 26% of full-time students say they often or very often work with classmates outside of class to prepare assignments; and”
— “49% of part-time students versus 32% of full-time students say they never do so.”
— “19% of part-time students versus 30% of full-time students say they often or very often talk about career plans with an instructor or advisor; and”
— “38% of part-time students versus 25% of full-time students say the never have those conversations.”
— “22% of part-time students versus 35% of full-time students say they often or very often make class presentations; 41% of part-time students versus 22% of full-time students say they never make class presentations.”
— “Part-time students are less likely to participate in a community-based project as part of a course. 4% of part-time students versus 8% of full-time students say they often or very often do so. 84% of part-time students versus 74% of full-time students say they never [do so].”

CCSSE found that students underutilize academic advising. Since I currently serve as a student advisor, I found these numbers most intriguing:
— CCSSE asked “While attending college, what has been your best source of academic advising?” Students’ answers were:
— “43% Academic advisor (faculty)”
— “26% Friends, family, or other students”
— “13% I have not received any academic advising”
— “10% Academic advisor (not faculty)”
— “7% Online college registration and/or computerized degree advising”
– “Asked to rate the strength of their relationship s with their advisors, 23% of all students say they do not use advising services.”
– “Nearly a third (29%) of part-time students, versus 16% of full-time students, say they do not use advising. . . . Because part-time students represent two-thirds of community college students, the number . . . not receiving advising services is even higher than it appears.”
– “22% of faculty members do not spend any time in a typical week advising students.”
– “Four in 10 part-time faculty members (40%) report spending zero hours in a typical week advising students. At community colleges, part-time faculty members typically teach at least half, and in some cases upward of two-thirds, of all courses sections.”

The report contained a very intriguing chart, on p. 22, detailing “how faculty members use class time.” I tend to focus on discussion, so I found it intriguing that the numbers for lecture and teacher-led discussion were pretty evenly split (40 v. 38%) for those engaging in those activities 20-49% of the time. As for those reporting a 75-100% engagement in a particular activity, it was no surprise that lecture (9%) far out-stripped other dominant activities. Only “hands-on practice,” at 7%, was even close. Only 2% of instructors said they lecture 0% of the time.

Statistical Basis of Report

– CCSSE’s findings are based on reporting about/from “a total of 249,548 students from 447 institutions in 46 states.”
– “CCSSE cohort member colleges enroll . . . about 42% of the total credit-student population.”
– “Of the 447 participating colleges, 55% are classified as small (up to 4,499 students), 24% as medium (4,500-7,999 students), 13% as large (8,000-14,999 students), and 8% as extra large (15,000 or more students). Nationally, 56% of community colleges are small, 22% are medium, 13% are large, and 9% are extra large.”
– “Colleges reported their locations as 26% urban, 27% suburban, and 47% rural.”

Annoyance with Report

CCSSE’s report constantly emphasizes, anecdotally, how participating colleges “act on fact.” CCSSE claims to have a “passion for dispassionate data” (p. 3), but then mixes in their report various institutions’ seemingly instantaneous corrections to problems. The cumulative effect is that the report feels as defensive as it is informative, like a publicity tool for participating institutions.

Comments are welcome. – TL

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