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Survey 1

National Survey of Student Engagement and Northern Arizona University

Victoria Acevedo

CCHE 687

Dr. King

November 21, 2016

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For the last two years, Northern Arizona University [NAU] has been focusing on

student out-of-class preparation. Students often come to class unprepared to discuss the

content of their assigned readings. They are also unable to communicate questions they

have from content that was previously covered. In 2010, NAU participated in the

National Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE] (NSSE, 2010). The data from this

survey, along with further qualitative assessment, may help colleges and departments,

such as the NAU Dental Hygiene Department, improve their strategies to increase student

out-of-class preparation.

According to the NSSE (2010), only 52% of first-year students frequently work

harder than they thought they could to meet faculty expectations. This may be interpreted

as students being under the impression that faculty do not hold them to high standards

(NSSE, 2010). It is not surprising students are not completing readings outside of class

and coming to class unprepared to ask questions or discuss content when almost half of

students do not work hard to achieve the high standards set by faculty. In order to

increase student preparedness for class, it is important to determine why students feel

they are not accountable for the standards set by faculty. Only after finding out the reason

for students thoughts on this matter can a plan be implemented for change.

There appears to be inconsistencies between faculty and student expectations

with consideration towards the amount of reading that is to be done by students.

According to the NSSE (2010), 25% of first-year NAU students read fewer than five

assigned books and packs of course readings while 34% read more than 10. The next

question should be why this is the case. If faculty expects students to read assigned

materials and come to class prepared for discussion, why are 25% of first-year students
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reading less than five assigned materials? To supplement the quantitative data from the

NSSE, qualitative data should be obtained to follow-up on the reasoning behind these

statistics (Bresciani, Zelna, & Anderson, 2004).

For students to be engaged in class they must not only read the required material,

but also be able to make sense of it. Understanding the material will promote student

participation in discussions and allow students to articulate questions they have about the

content. When asked about what types of thinking assignments require, 69% of first-year

students report that synthesizing and organizing ideas is emphasized (NSSE, 2010).

While 69% is more than half, it is still unsettling the percentage of students who report

this kind of thinking in regards to assignments is not higher. A higher percentage of

students (71%) reported that memorizing facts, ideas, or methods was more commonly

needed to complete assignments (NSSE, 2010). Faculty members at NAU are expecting

students to come to class prepared to ask questions and discuss the content in their

assigned readings. Hence, it is important students understand they have to read the

material not just for the sake of getting it done, but to read for comprehension. This

relates to faculty expectations and the actions of students. There is a discrepancy between

what faculty is expecting students to do (read and comprehend required reading

materials) and the perceptions of students as to how often they are asked to perform in

this manner.

To be properly prepared for class, students should understand the time that is

required to devote to in-class and out-of-class work. According to the Arizona Board of

Regents, a three-credit course requires about three hours of class time a week and

devoting a minimum of five and a half hours a week to homework (NAU, 2016). The
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NSSE data from 2010 shows the hours NAU students report about the time they spend on

homework each week. Seventeen percent of first-year students spend five hours or less on

homework a week (NSSE, 2010). This statistic may be troubling for faculty members

who are interested in increasing students out-of-class preparation. If the minimum

amount of homework time recommended for one three-credit course is five and a half

hours, first year students (assuming they are taking more than one three-credit course)

should dedicate more hours to prepare for class time. The challenge is to figure out why

students are not spending the time to prepare for class.

The NSSE data from 2010 provides useful statistics as to how NAU students

prepare for class. However, the data is a form of indirect assessment in that it uses

students self-reports to define the data (VanDerLinden, 2016). The quantitative data

from the survey can be used as a starting point for deeper research and assessment.

According to Bresciani et al. (2004), interviews and focus groups can be used to learn

more about survey data and find out the rationale behind certain responses. In attempt to

find out why students, specifically in the NAU Dental Hygiene Program, do or do not

read assigned materials, conducting interviews of students would provide valuable

information as to why students do or do not participate in this behavior. This information

would provide a deeper understanding of students actions and thought processes, which

would help the department improve the out-of-class preparation of their students.

Because the population of students in the NAU Dental Hygiene Department is

small and easily accessible, it would be fairly easy to conduct individual interviews of

students. The NAU Dental Hygiene Department has 28 to 30 students in each of the two

classes. Conducting individual interviews of all 60 students would be time intensive.

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Therefore, implementing purposeful, stratified sampling of the students would allow the

researcher to gain insightful information on above average, average, and below average

students and the study habits they have in relation to reading assigned materials (Schuh,

Upcraft, & Associates, 2001). The information the researcher would strive to obtain

through interviewing individual students is why they do or do not choose to read assigned


Dental hygiene students who are considered to be above average, average, and

below average would be determined by the indirect measure of student grades

(VanDerLinden, 2016). Six students (three juniors and three seniors) from each category

would be asked, in-person, to participate in the interviews. If, after interviewing these 18

students, saturation is not achieved, more students would be asked to participate until

student responses become redundant (Schuh et al., 2001). It is important to select the

most qualified person to collect the data, someone who would not have an adverse affect

on student responses (Schuh et al., 2001). For example, currently, the academic advisor in

the Dental Hygiene Department is a registered dental hygienist who has built a rapport

with students and does not teach any clinical or didactic courses in the program. This

advisor would be qualified to conduct the student interviews without positively or

negatively affecting student responses. The interviews could take place in a quiet

conference room in the Health Profession Building to avoid distractions (Bresciani et al.,

2004). When obtaining qualitative data it is important to record an audio version of the

interview and take notes, observing body language and temperament of participants to

supplement the interview data (Bresciani et al., 2004). The interviewer would be
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responsible for facilitating the interview, recording it, and taking notes with or without

additional assistance.

While semi-structured interviews allow for guidance through provided topics,

they also permit a somewhat natural flow of conversation to occur (Bresciani et al.,

2004). The interviewer will guide the process by asking five to six key questions of the

participants to achieve the purpose of discovering why dental hygiene students either do

or do not complete assigned readings. Open-ended questions would be used during the

interviews such as, how do you prepare (outside of class) for class discussions? or

what obstacles or challenges do you face to complete assigned course readings? Open-

ended questions are helpful to elicit detailed information from students and avoid leading

them to certain responses (Bresciani et al., 2004).

After the interviews are conducted, analysis of the information would be

necessary to provide data that would inform decisions within the Dental Hygiene

Department. Analysis of the data would include going through the transcripts of the audio

from the interviews and noting trends or patterns (Schuh et al., 2001). Rubrics are direct

measures of assessment and are often used to analyze data (Levy, McKelfresh, &

Donavan, 2012). Therefore, creating a rubric to demonstrate where students stand in

reference to faculty expectations will help in analyzing the data obtained from the


The quantitative data from the NSSE is helpful in demonstrating statistics

pertaining to the behaviors of NAU students especially those that speak to how students

prepare for class. However, the data is an indirect measure of assessment in that it is

based on students self-reports (VanDerLinden, 2016). Qualitative assessment, in the

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form of individual interviews, would make the data from the NSSE more valuable in that

it would provide a deeper understanding of the attitudes of students and why they do

what they do. A comprehensive approach to learning includes both indirect and direct

measures of assessment (VanDerLinden, 2016). For that reason, combining quantitative

data from the NSSE with qualitative information gathered from individual interviews

would inform decision making among faculty that would promote needed change.
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Bresciani, M., Zelna, C., & Anderson, J. (2004). Assessing student learning and

Development: A handbook for practitioners. Washington, D.C.: NASPA-Student

Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Levy, J. D., McKelfresh, D. A., & Donavan, J. A. (2012). A scale for success. Talking

Stick, 29 (3), 28-49.

National Survey of Student Engagement [NSSE]. (2010). The student experience in brief:

NAU. Retrieved November 14, 2016, from

Northern Arizona University [NAU]. (2016). Academic Catalog. Course Credits.

Retrieved November 18, 2016, from

VanDerLinden, K. (2016). Type of assessment in higher education part II. [Power Point].

Retrieved November 7, 2016, from



Schuh, J., Upcraft, M. L., & Associates (2001). Assessment practice in student affairs:

An applications manual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.