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Memorial outperforms nationally on student satisfaction

Teaching and Learning

By Courtenay Griffin

Student satisfaction higher than other Canadian universities. A greater desire to attend Memorial again.

These are some of the results from a recent National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which collects information from first-year and senior students who are fourth year and beyond about their participation in programs and activities that Memorial provides for their learning and development.

“This survey tells us what our students are saying about their engagement, and our 2020 data clearly shows where we are doing well when it comes to the student learning experience,” said Dr. Gavan Watson, associate vice-president, teaching and learning, and director of the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL). See more from Dr. Watson in the video below.

Memorial’s 2020 NSSE results indicate that students are more satisfied with their experiences than those at other Canadian comprehensive universities.

Eighty per cent of first-year students and 83 per cent of senior-year students rate their educational experience at Memorial as “excellent” or “good”, while percentages from other Canadian comprehensive institutions were 77 and 74 per cent, respectively.

A greater percentage of Memorial’s students also indicated they would attend the institution again.

Eighty-seven per cent of first-year students and 86 per cent of senior-year students indicated they would “definitely” or “probably” attend Memorial again, whereas percentages from other Canadian comprehensive institutions were 84 and 78 per cent, respectively.

Meaningful data

The National Survey of Student Engagement is not new to Memorial, with participation dating back to 2008.

But the university wants to improve how the data is used.

“As an institution, our students and the quality of their learning experiences are a top priority,” explained Dr. Watson. “If we can make meaning from our NSSE data, the results can help us understand what we’re doing well and what needs improvement.”

Last fall, an ad-hoc committee of faculty and staff was formed to review and interpret Memorial’s 2020 results.

“Our students also report a higher quality of interactions with faculty and instructors.” — Dr. Gavan Watson

As part of their work, committee members identified successes and areas for improvement, while simultaneously considering how the results align with the priorities in the university’s Teaching and Learning Framework.

“When comparing our data with that of other Canadian comprehensive universities, the committee found a greater percentage of students at Memorial are satisfied with their experiences,” said Dr. Watson. “Our students also report a higher quality of interactions with faculty and instructors, and more positive experiences with academic advising and learning support services.”

While it is important to acknowledge and celebrate Memorial’s successes as they relate to the student experience, Dr. Watson says he wants others to understand where, according to Memorial students themselves, there is room for growth.

The ad-hoc committee identified three areas that Memorial can focus on to improve engagement of students in their learning. These are high-impact practices, first-year experiences and diversity.

High-impact practices

“We’re doing pretty well with exposing senior students to high-impact practices, or HIPs,” said Dr. Watson. “But first-year students are not getting that same opportunity.”

HIPs are 11 specific teaching practices that have been shown to foster engagement in meaningful tasks and deepen the learning experience.

They can take different forms, including learning communities, collaborative assignments, field experiences and others.

Two students walking outside, with one looking back at the camera.
Senior students at Memorial have more opportunities to participate in high-impact practices than first-year students.

Memorial’s results show that 77 per cent of senior students participate in at least one high-impact practice, whereas only 37 per cent of first-year students reported the same.

“This suggests that incorporating high-impact institutional practices into first-year courses and curricula could be a priority for academic units and individual instructors to consider,” said Dr. Watson.

Active learning

In addition to HIPs, Memorial’s first-year students appear to be working less with their classmates on team projects and assignments and participating less in classroom discussions.

“This tells us that first-year students are prepared when they come to class, they’ve done their homework.” — Dr. Gavan Watson

But 85 per cent report they are more than likely to come to class having completed assignments and readings.

“This tells us that first-year students are prepared when they come to class, they’ve done their homework,” Dr. Watson said.

“However, instead of having them complete individual assignments and readings outside of class, instructors can think about ways to engage students with their peers. This will transform the experience into active learning, which means greater participation, interaction and co-operation.”

Engaging and meaningful

Dr. Watson is encouraging academic units and instructors to review Memorial’s 2020 NSSE results, and consider how they can make meaning of the results as it relates to a particular curriculum or develop new academic activities.

“CITL is available to consult with units and instructors, and to support next steps in providing our students with engaging and meaningful learning experiences.”

Memorial’s NSSE results are administered by the Centre for Institutional Analysis and Planning (CIAP); the 2020 results and the ad-hoc committee report on the results are available here.

For academic units or instructors looking to make meaning of the data and take next steps, please contact CITL’s Support Centre.

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