crossing the chasm a word about fsse

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A Word About FSSE
Designed to supplement the NSSE survey, FSSE (pronounced “fessie”) measures faculty’s expectations of student engagement. It focuses on (1) how faculty organize class time and activities, (2) emphasis on various areas of learning and development, (3) faculty’s perceptions of how often their students are engaged in their activities, and (4) student-faculty interactions. Since all higher education institutions participating in NSSE were invited to participate in FSSE, the FSSE data gave us a set of comparisons between the student and faculty groups. This set of information can be valuable for improving institutional practices that affect student learning and faculty development. However, it is important to remember that the instrument is not designed to capture faculty’s perceptions of the same specific students who participated in NSSE. Faculty members give their opinions based on the classes they teach, which can be attended by both lower division students and upper division students, and may or may not include freshmen and seniors who participated in NSSE. Like NSSE, FSSE is coordinated by Indiana University at Bloomington. The FSSE pilot test was conducted in 2003, with 14,000 participating faculty from 143 institutions. For more information about FSSE, please visit Also, please see Volume 1, Issue 1 of this publication or discussions about some of UM’s NSSE results at http://

• Only 5% of UM faculty believed that they “very much” emphasized memorization in their classes, compared to 22% for students • Eighty percent of both students and faculty reported that their coursework “very much” or “quite a bit” required them to apply theories to practical problems or in new situations • About 90% of students and faculty reported that UM environment promoted studying and spending significant amounts of time on academic work
ABOUT THIS NEWSLETTER: This web-based publication is intended to highlight interesting information that we garner from various surveys or research. It is our hope that this information will be beneficial to all parties, especially those who work with students directly or can make a profound impact in students’ experience. Back issues can be found at http:// obpinfo/mknowblue Note that all data presented in this issue are from FSSE and NSSE 2003.

Crossing the Chasm
323 faculty members at UM completed FSSE 2003. Various disciplines were represented, including Arts and Humanities (40%), Social Science (20%), and Physical Science (13%), among others. Nine out of ten were full-time faculty. Forty-one percent were tenured, 25% were untenured, and 34% were not on the tenure track. Most (44%) were veteran teachers, with more than 15 years of experience. In this second issue of “M Know Blue,” we would like to highlight some comparisons between the faculty’s perceptions and students’ perceptions. In particular, we intend to focus on the “level of Academic Challenge” that the faculty members expected from their students. Please see Issue 1 of this publication for more detailed information about the students’ responses and the comparison between UM students and their peers from other institutions. In this issue, we want to examine the following questions: • • • • What did the faculty think about their students’ academic involvement? How high of a challenge did the faculty give their students? How did the faculty’s perceptions of the student behavior differ from the students’ self reports? How did UM faculty’s responses compare to those of their peers at other institutions? Faculty’s Perceptions vs. Student’s Self-Reports In general, students showed more polarized responses than faculty with regard to their academic experiences. For instance, while 45% of UM seniors reported that
50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Fac: Lower Div Fac: Upper Div Freshmen Seniors

50%or Higher (Very Of t en or Of t en)


Worked harder than thought to meet instructors’ expectation

they “often” or “very often” worked harder than they thought they could to meet their instructor’s expectations, only 35% of UM faculty considered that more than half of their upper division students frequently rose to the challenge. On the other hand, 13% of seniors claimed that they “never” worked harder than they thought they could, while only 2% of faculty believed that “none” of their upper division students worked harder than expected.

Crossing the Chasm
theory application) than seniors. For instance, 71% faculty claimed that their classes A similar pattern can be discerned among the put “very much” or “quite a bit” emphasis on making a judgment, compared to two-thirds freshmen. Forty-four percent of freshmen for seniors. On the other hand, freshmen claimed that they “very often” or “often” gave higher rating to their mental activities. worked harder than they thought to meet Fifty-five percent of faculty who taught lower their instructors’ expectations and 13% stated that they “never” worked harder than division students believed that their courses they thought. On the other hand, the corre- put “very much” or “quite a bit” emphasis on sponding figures for faculty were 39% and 4% making a judgment, vs. 61% for freshmen. Furthermore, 14% of faculty believed that respectively. These UM faculty responses were comparable to those of the comparable their courses put “very little” emphasis on making a judgment, compared to only 7% for research (doctorate extensive) universities freshmen. and all of the participating institutions.
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100% 6% 80% 60% 40% 49 % 20% 0% Faculty Ver y Little Some Qui te a Bi t Students Ver y Much 0% UM Resear ch U National 48% 30% 12% 20% 28 % 2 2% 35% 36% 40% 5% 12%

In terms of the institutional academic environment, there was not a significant difference between faculty’s opinions and those of the students. About nine out of ten faculty members (89%) and students (91%) alike felt that the university environment put “very much” or “quite a bit” emphasis on studying. Only 1-2% of faculty and students believed that the environment was not conducive to studying. These UM ratings were higher than that of other institutions. Only 28% of faculty in comparable research institutions and 22% of

60% 22%

49 %


Ver y Little Some Qui te a Bit Ver y Much


Faculty: Coursework emphasized applying theories or concepts to practical problems or in new situations

Memorizing facts, ideas or methods from courses or readings

Environment “very much” required students to spend significant amounts of time studying

There were no significant differences between students’ and faculty’s perceptions on some of the course emphases. For example, students and faculty agreed on their coursework’s emphasis on theory application. Eighty percent of all students and faculty believed that their coursework “quite a bit” or “very much” required students to apply theories to practical problems or in new situations. Similarly, more than 66% of faculty and 64% of students believe that their coursework put “quite a bit” or “very much” emphasis on students making a judgment about the value of information, arguments, or methods. There were differences, however, between student groups. Faculty who taught upper division students believed that their courses put more emphasis on some mental activities (analyzing, synthesizing, judgment making, and

The largest difference between faculty’s responses that those of the students was in the emphasis on memorizing facts. Faculty claimed that they put significantly less emphasis on memorization than students. Only 5% of faculty reported that they “very much” emphasized memorization, compared to 22% for students (freshmen and seniors combined). Likewise, almost half (48%) of faculty believed that they required “very little” memorization, vs. 12% for students. Compared to other institutions, UM faculty reported that they put less emphasis on memorizing than their peers. Only 37% of faculty at other institutions reported that they put “very little” emphasis on memorization (vs. 48% for UM). In addition, almost one quarter of faculty at other institutions reported that they “very much” emphasized memorization compared to 17% for UM.

faculty from all institutions believed that their environment “very much” required students to spend significant amounts of time in their academic work compared to 49% for UM. In summary, while there were some differences between faculty’s responses and students’ responses, there were a great deal of similarities between them as well. While faculty and students disagree on the amount of memorization that was required for the coursework, they agreed that the coursework emphasized application of theories and judgment. In addition, both faculty and students reported that UM gave higher academic challenge to the students than their peers at other institutions. Next issue: How did our students interact with their peers?

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