TWU ranks number one in Canada in three of five NSSE categories

Trinity Western University ranked number one Canadian school in three of five categories in the 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) as reported by Maclean’s magazine.

TWU was also the only Canadian college or university to score above the NSSE average—the overall 2010 median for 595 Canadian, and U.S. universities and colleges.

“TWU was founded as an institution that places high priority on teaching within a liberal studies perspective,” says Vice Provost, Robert Wood, Ph.D. “To this end, the University has intentionally designed a curriculum and established a learning environment that invites students to be engaged, both in the classroom and as part of a community of learning.”



What makes NSSE scores so important? It is the only survey that measures the students’ level of engagement with their institution. Survey items represent empirically confirmed "good practices" in undergraduate education. That is, they reflect behaviors by students and institutions that are associated with desired outcomes of university.

The survey focuses on five benchmarks with 5-7 questions behind each one. Much of the value of NSSE lies in the questions contained in each of these. For example, the category, Enriching Educational Experience, measures diversity and complementary learning opportunities that enhance academic programs. That includes internships and co-ops, community service, study abroad, and a campus environment that promotes contact among students from different backgrounds.


Alexander W. Astin, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Higher Education and Organization Change at the University of California, says, “The quality of the college experience is strongly affected by student-faculty interactions. The frequency with which students talk with professors outside class, work with them on research projects, assist them in teaching, and visit their homes, correlates with student grade-point average, degree attainment, enrollment in graduate or professional school [and] every self-reported area of intellectual and personal growth…” Dr. Astin led the most extensive research study ever carried out on facts affecting student success in college; he published the results in his book, What Matters in College.

What’s more, he says, "...the student's peer group is the single most potent source of influence on growth and development during the undergraduate years. Frequency of student-student interactions (including discussing course content with other students, working on group projects, tutoring other students, and participating in intramural sports) correlates with improvement in GPA, graduating with honors, analytical and problem-solving skills, leadership ability, public speaking skills, interpersonal skills, preparation for graduate and professional school, and general knowledge, and correlates negatively with feeling depressed.”


The issue of student engagement is becoming increasingly important for post-secondary institutions. “Schools that dare to focus on teaching have risen to the top of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE),” reports Macleans magazine. “Professors at teaching-focused universities like Quest, Trinity Western and King’s at Western are free to spend a majority of their time engaging with students in the classroom, the office or beyond.”

TWU promotes interactive pedagogy with small classes, discussion groups led by professors, undergraduate students involved in science research, online learning and case study approaches. It requires both first- and final-year interdisciplinary courses for graduation. These initiatives support TWU’s emphasis on leadership development. As a relatively small institution, TWU is able to be both innovative and flexible.

Among institutions of higher learning in North America, Trinity Western University has distinguished itself as unique based upon its design and achievement of holistic student experience.


Developed in the late 1990s, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) consists of a computer-administered survey of roughly 100 questions taken by randomly selected first-year and fourth-year students and run by an independent research organization. Over 1300 universities in North America have administered the survey at least once; some provinces, such as Ontario, have mandated that all their universities participate.


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