National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Action Group


Queen’s University has committed to using the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) as the primary metric at the undergraduate level for student engagement. Student engagement is a major component of the student learning experience, which is one of the newly developed Strategic Framework’s four strategic drivers. NSSE is a survey that measures students’ levels of engagement with their universities both inside and outside of the classroom. The NSSE survey items represent empirically confirmed “good practices” in undergraduate education. Students are asked about the interaction they have with their professors, their classmates and their institutions, as well as being asked about the time they spend engaged in different sorts of learning activities, all of which has been shown to be positively correlated with student success.

Queen’s has used NSSE on a three-year cycle since 2004 and we have just received the results from the 2014 administration of NSSE. The 2014 survey allows us to compare directly with our own 2011 results and see the comparison with our Canadian peers, and more particularly, the U15 institutions. We know from our experience in the NSSE National Project that there is often more variation within an institution than there is between institutions and so we will also be using the results to find best practices in faculties and departments that could be adopted with appropriate modification university-wide. Henceforth, we will administer NSSE annually to allow us to measure our progress in specific areas more frequently, which will help us as we implement the Strategic Framework.

In order to respond in a meaningful way to the NSSE results by using them for effective planning, we are assembling a small group of individuals to serve as an action team charged with the task of analyzing and reviewing the results. The action team will provide their analysis to all faculties and schools as a tool to aid them in developing and implementing strategies and programs in response to the results.

In his book, Student Success in College, George Kuh, Chancellor's Professor of Higher Education and Director, Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University, states “There is an old adage that when everyone is responsible for something no one is accountable for it.” He goes on to describe examples of universities that have put focused teams in place to champion change. He notes specifically that “the in-charge parties were not necessarily expected to bring about the changes themselves but to monitor, prod and support others who were also working on the issues.” In several passages in his book, Dr. Kuh also notes the critical importance of the partnership between academic and student affairs in enabling positive change. It is with this in mind that we are establishing a Queen’s NSSE action team with both academic and student affairs leadership.


The NSSE Action Group has developed an annual process for sharing and discussing university-wide and Faculty/School-specifc NSSE results with Deans to help inform strategic planning, including enrolment planning, cyclical program reviews and performance planning.

I. Terms of Reference

The mandate of the team is to:

  • use the NSSE results to identify areas where the university might develop curricular, co-curricular or extra-curricular strategies to improve student engagement, especially in the areas of active and collaborate learning and student faculty interaction, areas identified as being of particular importance in the Strategic Framework.
  • To assist faculties, departments and other units to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement and to assist them in effecting changes guided by NSSE results.
  • To ensure an institution-wide response to NSSE that appropriately and comprehensively addresses the Strategic Framework focus on the student learning experience and specifically undergraduate student engagement.

We recognize that NSSE is not the only instrument to measure student engagement and student satisfaction. The recently approved Strategic Framework sets out various metrics under the Student Learning Experience area of focus. NSSE, along with the Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (GPSS), internal Queen’s surveys, retention and graduation rate data, student ratings and unit reviews, all combine to give us valuable information we can use as a guide to how we might improve the experience for our students and promote their success.

The NSSE Action Team look forward to the involvement of the entire campus community throughout this project in support of this component of the student learning experience.

II. Committee Composition

Name Title
C. Conway Director, Institutional Research and Planning
  President, Alma Mater Society 
J. Scott Vice-Provost, Teaching and Learning
A. Tierney Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs

Other individuals may be added to the team, if appropriate.