Understanding Survey Results
Online Reporting System Tutorials
Respondents Included in Raw Data File
Means and Frequency Reports
Standards for Interpreting Mean Differences
Weights and Local Student Characteristics
Student Level Breakout Definitions
Student Identifier Data
College leaders will wish to familiarize themselves with Survey of Entering Student Engagement (SENSE) findings before communicating about the results.
The Center offers four tutorials to help member colleges navigate and understand the various features of the SENSE online reporting system.
The total count of respondents in an institution’s raw data file will differ from the numbers reported in the institutional reports due to intentional exclusion of certain surveys. Respondents are excluded for the following reasons:
- The respondent did not indicate whether he or she was enrolled full-time or part-time at the institution.
- The respondent did not indicate whether he or she was an entering or returning student.
- The survey is invalid. A survey is invalid if a respondent answered all items in number 19 as either never or four or more times.
- The student reported his or her age as under 18.
- The student indicated that he or she had taken the survey in a previous class or did not respond to item 1.
- Oversampled respondents are not included because they are selected outside of SENSE's primary sampling procedures.
Raw data files contain responses from all survey instruments returned by the college, with the exception of invalid surveys and those completed by students under the age of 18. For the purposes of working with your data file, excluded respondents do not have a weight listed for the IWEIGHT variable. To run analysis without excluded respondents, simply remove any observations where IWEIGHT is missing. This will ensure that the analysis only includes primary sample respondents who were included in Center analysis.
SENSE benchmarks are groups of conceptually related survey items that focus on institutional practices and behaviors that promote engagement among entering students. Benchmarks are used to compare each institution’s performance to that of similar institutions and with the SENSE Cohort. The six SENSE benchmarks are: early connections, high expectations and aspirations, clear academic plan and pathway, effective track to college readiness, engaged learning, and academic and social support network.
Benchmark reports consist of tables showing the college's scores on each benchmark, followed by means and frequency tables of items in each benchmark. Benchmark scores provide an overview of how the college is doing in particular areas. Colleges should examine results from the individual survey items composing each benchmark as well.
Responses to individual SENSE survey items are summarized in two formats: means and frequencies.
Means reports present an average for each survey item that has scaled responses (e.g., strongly agree to strongly disagree) and compare average item responses between member colleges and various groups, or between student subgroups within a college. Means are not run on dichotomous items (those with only two response options). These items are summarized in frequency reports.Frequency reports present the observed frequencies of occurrence (counts and percentages) of the values for each survey item (excluding demographic survey items). These reports are useful for understanding how data are distributed across response categories. Counts and percentages on frequency reports are subject to rounding.
When interpreting mean differences across comparison groups, the Center uses a combination of two measures: (1) a t-test with a very conservative alpha level of .001 or less (to determine if the difference between two means is significant and not likely due to chance) and (2) an effect size of .20 (absolute value) or more using Cohen’s d (to show the magnitude of difference between the two means). If a comparison meets both of these criteria, then it is considered to be a statistically significant difference worthy of further investigation. Comparisons that meet these criteria are marked with a double-asterisk (**). For internal analysis of small groups, it may make sense for colleges to use a larger alpha level but typically not a larger effect size.
Full-time students, who by definition are enrolled in more classes than part-time students, are more likely to be sampled. To adjust for this sampling bias, a statistical weighting procedure is applied to SENSE results when an analysis contains both full-time and part-time students. Weighting is uniquely calculated for each institution and is based on the most recent publicly available IPEDS enrollment figures.
Under certain circumstances, deactivating weights may be a more informative way to examine institutional SENSE data. For example, a college that has recently experienced a significant change in emrollment characteristics may want to consider whether weights based on IPEDS numbers are appropriate. Colleges where the vast majority of students are either full-time or part-time may want to look at the unweighted results for the majority group of students.
SENSE encourages member colleges to carefully compare the student characteristics of their SENSE sample with the characteristics of their entering student population.
Breakout reports, including benchmarks, means, and frequencies, for institutional results are available in each of the areas below. Each category is based on student responses to specific survey items.
Full-Time & Less Than Full-Time (Enrollment Status)
Item 2: “Thinking about this semester/quarter, how would you describe your enrollment at this college?”
Developmental & Non-Developmental
The first three sub-items in Item 17: “In which of the following types of courses were you enrolled during your first semester/quarter at this college?”
17a. Developmental Reading (also referred to as Basic Skills, College Prep, etc.)
17b. Developmental Writing (also referred to as Basic Skills, College Prep, etc.)
17c. Developmental Math (also referred to as Basic Skills, College Prep, etc.)
If a student responded that he or she was enrolled in one or more of these types of courses during his or her first semester/quarter at the college, he or she is classified as Developmental; otherwise, he or she is classified as Non-Developmental.
Traditional & Nontraditional-Age
Item 30: “Mark your age group.”
Respondents under age 18 are excluded from all data sets. Respondents marking age groups 18 to 19, 20 to 21, and 22 to 24 are classified as Traditional-Age and those marking age groups 25 to 29, 30 to 39, 40 to 49, 50 to 64, or 65+ are classified as Nontraditional-Age.
First-Generation & Not First-Generation
Item 38: “Who in your family has attended at least some college?”
If the respondent indicated that either his or her mother or father had attended at least some college, then the student is classified as Not First-Generation; otherwise, he or she is classified as First-Generation.
Male & Female (Sex)
Item 29: “Your Sex.”
Item 35: “What is your racial/ethnic identification?”
In accordance with Texas state law and The University of Texas at Austin’s policies, the Center does not provide student identifiers in the raw data file available for download via the SENSE online reporting system. To request a securely transmitted data file with student identifiers, please contact your SENSE liaison or email@example.com.Back to top