From classrooms to fostering connections, survey shows NAU doing well

Students talking

Northern Arizona University is engaged in effective educational practices, and in ways that are typically better than its selected peers, according to the 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement.

The annual survey asks students at more than 600 colleges and universities to reflect on the time they devote to various learning activities in five benchmark areas: Level of Academic Challenge, Active and Collaborative Learning, Student-Faculty Interaction, Enriching Educational Experiences and Supportive Campus Environment.

NAU seniors rated their educational experiences higher than their counterparts at selected peer colleges in all five benchmarks, while NAU freshmen rated higher than these peers in three benchmarks and equal to them in the other two areas.

In particular, both freshmen and seniors scored significantly higher than their peers in the Active and Collaborative Learning benchmark, which looks at whether students are intensely involved in their education, and the Student-Faculty Interaction benchmark, which looks at whether students work with faculty members inside and outside the classroom.

“NAU is leading in many areas and nowhere are we lagging,” said Karen Pugliesi, vice provost for Academic Affairs, who attributes the results in part to how NAU faculty design courses and implement “best practices” to foster student learning.

“It’s also in the vibrancy of our campus and how learning extends to the environment we create here,” she said. “NAU is very good at providing students ways to interact beyond the formal classroom that are accessible and supportive, which is of course consistent with our institutional identity that is all about personal connections.”

At NAU, 2,382 randomly selected NAU students participated in the most recent survey.

Among the highlights from this year’s survey are that 82 percent said faculty are available, helpful or sympathetic to their needs; 70 percent of seniors reported that the quality of advising at the university is good or excellent; and 88 percent of seniors rated their entire educational experience as good or excellent.

One senior commented, “I have had a fantastic experience at NAU. The instructors have been wonderful and understanding. I have stretched myself academically and it has given me confidence for other areas of my life.”

The 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement is sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The full report will be available online in November.