A Sharpened Focus on Learning
Community colleges have long distinguished themselves through their efforts to put students first and their emphasis on teaching and learning. Innovations in curriculum, teaching strategies, and support services for students are hallmarks of these institutions. Yet while community colleges often pioneer new strategies, they don't have sufficient access to tools that help them assess their initiatives and measure their progress toward key goals.
Today, community colleges are being asked to rise to new challenges. Across the country, community colleges must respond to the increasing expectations for quality, performance, and accountability set by governing boards, state and federal governments, accrediting organizations, and the public. Key among those expectations is that colleges should emphasize assessment and improvement of student retention and student learning.
To respond effectively to these challenges, community and technical colleges need assessment tools appropriate to their unique missions and the characteristics of their diverse student populations. CCSSE is meeting that need.
Community College Survey of Student Engagement
CCSSE provides information on student engagement, a key indicator of learning and, therefore, of the quality of community colleges. The survey, administered to community college students, asks questions that assess institutional practices and student behaviors that are correlated highly with student learning and student retention. The CCSSE survey is a versatile, research-based tool appropriate for multiple uses. It is a
- benchmarking instrument establishing national norms on educational practice and performance by community and technical colleges.
- diagnostic tool identifying areas in which a college can enhance students educational experiences.
- monitoring device documenting and improving institutional effectiveness over time.
CCSSE was established in 2001 as a project of the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Grants from several funders have supported the work over the years.
CCSSE works in partnership with NSSE, a survey that focuses on four-year colleges and universities. Established in 1998, NSSE is headquartered at Indiana University in the Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning. The NSSE survey, administered to first-year and senior students in four-year institutions, emerged in response to concerns about quality in American undergraduate education and about the lack of emphasis on student learning in the major (and highly visible) college rankings in the United States.
From the beginning, though, there was a recognized need for a student engagement survey specifically designed for community and technical colleges. Thus, CCSSE was launched in 2001, with the intention of producing new information about community college quality and performance that would provide value to institutions in their efforts to improve student learning and retention, while also providing policymakers and the public with more appropriate ways to view the quality of undergraduate education.
CCSSE is a product and service of the Center for Community College Student Engagement, which is part of the Program for Higher Education Leadership in the Department of Educational Administration at The University of Texas at Austin. The Center staff receives expert guidance from a National Advisory Board. Board members include representatives from key partner organizations, community college presidents, and state directors of community colleges.