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ISES - Inventory of Student Engagement and Success

Content of ISES (First Half): The questions to be asked revolve around the six conditions that foster student engagement and persistence:

I. A "living" mission and "lived" educational philosophy

What is U of C; what do we stand for, aspire to be?

Mission establishes the tone of a university, conveys its educational purposes, and influences all aspects of institutional life, including the policies and practices that foster student success

Espoused mission - written mission statement

Enacted mission - what the institution actually does and whom it serves; guides the daily actions of those in regular contact with students, as well as those who set institutional policy, make strategic plans and decisions, and allocate resources

A mission that is alive: faculty members, administrators, staff, students, and other use it to explain their behaviour and talk about what the institution is and where it is headed.

There are 2 sections of diagnostic queries within this condition - Espoused and Enacted Missions (8 questions), and Values and Educational Philosophy (6 questions). These are big, overriding questions about our mission and how the institution espouses that mission, our core values, and enacted educational philosophy; senior administration would need to be involved in answering these queries.

II. An unshakeable focus on student learning

  • Student learning must be the raison d'être for institutional policies, programs, practices, and the rationale for daily activities as well as broad institutional directions
  • The institution must make necessary changes in institutional polices and pedagogical practices to help students realize their potential
  • Should include classroom-based problem solving, peer tutoring, service learning and other community-based projects, internships, and involvement in a variety of educationally purposeful activities outside of class - opportunities for students to practice what they are learning in the classroom.

There are 4 sections of diagnostic queries within this condition - Teaching for Learning (8 questions), Focus on Holistic Student Development (2 questions), Making Time for Students (3 questions), and Diverse Students and Learning Styles (2 questions). These questions focus on how our students are taught, how they interact with faculty members, and how the institution supports these activities; faculty members would need to be deeply involved in answering these questions.

III. Environments adapted for educational enrichment

  • "Environments" for student learning include all the physical and psychological spaces in which students live, work, and play - settings must be supportive of learning, reinforcing the educational mission and values of the institution
  • need to create spaces and settings where teaching and learning can flourish
  • attend to the educational implications of the psychological environments
  • include the surrounding communities - link people and resources to address issues that affect the quality of life on and off the campus
  • feature and support all forums of diversity - intellectual, social, political, ethnic, and racial.

There are 3 sections of diagnostic queries within this section: Physical Environments (6 questions), Social-Psychological Campus Climates (4 questions), Access to Learning Resources (4 questions). These questions would require input from a broad group of stakeholders, including direct input from our students.

IV. Clear pathways to student success

Need to do these things:

  • Teach students what the institution values, what successful students do, and how to take advantage of institutional resources for learning
  • These lessons are conveyed through programs tailored for first-year students and by organizing the first-year experience in educationally purposeful ways to support satisfactory transition and adjustment
  • Formal orientation activities ensure that new students do not get lost in the shuffle or struggle aimlessly
  • Many informal events and processes communicate to new students, faculty and staff what is valued and how things are done (acculturation)
  • Make sure their resources are compatible with the institution's educational mission, as well as student characteristics, and are available to all students
  • Provide redundant early warning systems, safety nets, ongoing assessment and feedback
  • Provide what students need when they need it through accessible and responsive systems that support teaching, learning, and student success
  • Matching resources, policies and practices with the institution's educational purposes and student characteristics constitutes alignment.

There are 2 sections, with 6 overall sub-sections of diagnostic queries within this section. They are: Acculturation: Teaching Students How to Succeed, Creating a Sense of Community; Alignment: Creating Pathways to Student Success; Front-loading Resources (3 questions), Early Warning Systems and Safety Nets (2 questions), Integration of Complementary Student Success Initiatives (6 questions). This set of questions will take much research and requires input from all areas of campus, particularly the Student and Enrolment Services area, and the student-focused areas within faculties and departments.

V: An improvement-oriented ethos

  • "positively restless" - confident about what they are and where they want to go; believe they can always improve
  • open to trying new things
  • monitor where they are, what they're doing; whether they are making progress toward desired goals and objectives
  • to be the best THEY can be
  • supporting this orientation toward improvement is a "can-do" ethic that permeates these (DEEP) campuses

There are 3 sections of diagnostic queries for this condition: Openness to Innovate (3 questions), Data to Inform and Evaluate Improvement Efforts (3 questions), and Resource Allocation (3 questions). The questions in this section are more theoretical, and it may be that different stakeholders provide us with different responses to these queries.

VI: Shared responsibility for educational quality and student success

  • Student learning should be widely accepted as everyone's responsibility
  • Partnerships are important; particularly those between faculty and student affairs professionals
  • Key leaders and senior faculty members speak persuasively about institutional aspirations and the importance of learning-centered priorities; through actions and words, senior administrators and faculty model preferred ways of interacting, making decisions, and responding to challenges
  • In addition, hundreds of individuals make countless small gestures on a daily basis that create and sustain a caring community for students
  • Students should be taught to take responsibility for their learning and that of their peers.

There are 3 sections of diagnostic queries within this condition: Institutional Leadership, Campus Partnerships, Student Responsibility. This set of questions will require input from a broad group of stakeholders, and students' input will be key.

While the above six conditions are the core of the diagnostic queries, the "Assessing Condition" book has one more final area that requires a broader review. They pitch this as, "Ultimately, it's about the culture."

They recommend that, as we think about examining and understanding the cultures and subcultures (including student cultures) of our institution, consider focusing on:

  • Artifacts (such as rituals, traditions, stories, myths, ceremonies, language, norms)
  • Values, or widely held beliefs about who can learn what here and who cannot
  • Who deserves and education and who does not,
  • The importance of certain goals, activities, and relationships.

They then provide 2 sections of diagnostic queries: Institutional Cultures, and Student Cultures. These questions are also rather theoretical; it will be important to garner all groups' feelings on these issues.

Content of ISES (Second Half):
Second half of the inventory is focused on using ISES to assess effective educational practices, based on five National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) benchmarks:

  • Academic challenge
  • Active and collaborative learning
  • Student-faculty interaction
  • Enriching educational experiences
  • Supportive campus environment

There are a series of questions to be asked to help us sift through priorities for taking action. Also, within the benchmarks, many diagnostic queries need to be assessed. Many of the answers to these queries will be found within our NSSE data; workshops and focus groups will be required to shed further light on the questions.