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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 29, 2001

On Campus
Survey offers look at colleges

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

High school seniors and their parents are in the midst of a stressful time filling out college applications. Students are working on essays and completing a multitude of forms. Parents are wondering about everything from how to finance it all to finding the appropriate college "fit" for their child.

 •  To see the survey as a whole, go to www.indiana.edu/~nsse or e-mail nsse@indiana.edu for further information.
To help with the latter, the National Survey of Student Engagement offers guidance for families looking at how well their children might be expected to do at the schools surveyed, as rated by the students themselves. School-by-school results are not available on the Web, but they are available directly from the schools.

Schools were chosen at random, so don't be disappointed if the schools you're interested in haven't been included. In Hawai'i, only the four-year University of Hawai'i schools participated.

The survey looks at five benchmarks for how colleges are performing, including:

• Level of academic challenge.

• Active and collaborative learning.

• Student-faculty interaction.

• Enriching educational experiences.

• Supportive campus environment.

This year 155,000 first-year and senior students from 470 four-year colleges and universities graded their colleges according to the standards. What this is intended to show, say survey creators based at Indiana University's Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning, is how much active learning is occurring.

Some of the findings:

• Students spend only about half as much time preparing for class as teachers say is necessary. Twenty percent of all students often arrive at classes unprepared.

• Students at smaller colleges and liberal arts colleges tend to be more engaged in their studies than those attending larger colleges.

• Forty-five percent of all first-year students "never" discussed ideas from their classes or their readings with faculty outside of class. Even so, many schools are offering small seminars for first-year students, research opportunities and senior projects that encourage interaction outside class.

• Seventy-two percent of seniors do internships; 67 percent do community service and volunteer work.

• Active and collaborative learning is becoming more common, with 90 percent of students working with others in projects in class and 98 percent "occasionally" participating in class discussions.

The four-year campuses within the UH system scored well. UH-Manoa, UH-Hilo and UH-West O'ahu all are doing better than predicted in levels of student engagement in the learning processes, according to the survey. And the levels this year were higher than last.

The biggest area of weakness in the UH system was the level of academic challenge experienced by freshmen. Karl Kim, UH-Manoa vice chancellor for academic affairs, said: "We're working hard to improve the quality of the freshman year."

The core curriculum has been modernized, plus there has been an expansion of learning communities and faculty mentoring. Meanwhile, at UH-Hilo, faculty are looking at increasing the rigor of freshman courses.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com, or 525-8013.