001

Table of Contents
 
Title Page
Copyright Page
PREFACE
PURPOSE OF THE BOOK
HOW TO READ AND USE THIS BOOK
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
 
PART I - Introduction
 
Chapter 1 - Student Engagement
 
WHY EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE MATTERS
DOCUMENTING EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE (DEEP)
KEEP IN MIND
NO SINGLE BLUEPRINT FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
 
PART II - Properties and Conditions Common to Educationally Effective Colleges
Chapter 2 - “Living” Mission and “Lived” Educational Philosophy
 
MISSION
OPERATING PHILOSOPHY
MEET THE DEEP SCHOOLS
MAKING SPACE FOR DIFFERENCE
MISSION CLARITY: “TELL ME AGAIN—WHAT ARE WE ABOUT?”
SUMMARY
WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY ABOUT A LIVING MISSION AND LIVED EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY
 
Chapter 3 - An Unshakeable Focus on Student Learning
 
VALUING UNDERGRADUATES AND THEIR LEARNING
EXPERIMENTING WITH ENGAGING PEDAGOGIES
DEMONSTRATING A COOL PASSION FOR TALENT DEVELOPMENT
MAKING TIME FOR STUDENTS
FEEDBACK: IMPROVING PERFORMANCE, CONNECTING STUDENTS AND FACULTY
SUMMARY
WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY ABOUT FOCUSING ON STUDENT LEARNING
 
Chapter 4 - Environments Adapted for Educational Enrichment
 
USING THE SETTING FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING
CREATING HUMAN SCALE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY ABOUT ADAPTING ENVIRONMENTS FOR EDUCATIONAL ADVANTAGE
 
Chapter 5 - Clear Pathways to Student Success
 
ACCULTURATION
WHAT NEW STUDENTS NEED TO KNOW
AFFIRMING DIVERSITY
ALIGNMENT
WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY ABOUT CREATING CLEAR PATHWAYS TO STUDENT SUCCESS
 
Chapter 6 - An Improvement-Oriented Ethos
 
REALIZING THE VISION: THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO
MAKING STUDENT SUCCESS A PRIORITY: FAYETTEVILLE STATE UNIVERSITY
INVESTING IN UNDERGRADUATE EDUCATION: THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
FOSTERING INSTITUTIONAL RENEWAL: UNIVERSITY OF MAINE AT FARMINGTON
CHAMPIONING LEARNING COMMUNITIES: WOFFORD COLLEGE
CREATING A CAMPUSWIDE INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITY: URSINUS COLLEGE
POSITIVE RESTLESSNESS
CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT
DATA-INFORMED DECISION MAKING
SUMMARY
WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY ABOUT INNOVATING AND IMPROVING
 
Chapter 7 - Shared Responsibility for Educational Quality and Student Success
 
LEADERSHIP
FACULTY AND STAFF DIVERSITY
STUDENT AFFAIRS: A KEY PARTNER IN PROMOTING STUDENT SUCCESS
FOSTERING STUDENT AGENCY
THE POWER OF ONE
WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY ABOUT SHARING RESPONSIBILITY FOR EDUCATIONAL QUALITY
 
PART III - Effective Practices Used at DEEP Colleges and Universities
CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITIES
 
Chapter 8 - Academic Challenge
 
HIGH EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENT PERFORMANCE
EXTENSIVE WRITING, READING, AN D CLASS PREPARATION
RIGOROUS CULMINATING EXPERIENCE FOR SENIORS
CELEBRATIONS OF SCHOLARSHIP
SUMMARY
 
Chapter 9 - Active and Collaborative Learning
 
LEARNING TO LEARN ACTIVELY
LEARNING FROM PEERS
LEARNING IN COMMUNITIES
SERVING AND LEARNING IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
RESPONDING TO DIVERSE LEARNING STYLES
SUMMARY
 
Chapter 10 - Student-Faculty Interaction
 
ACCESSIBLE AND RESPONSIVE FACULTY
ACADEMIC ADVISING
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGIES
SUMMARY
 
Chapter 11 - Enriching Educational Experiences
 
INFUSION OF DIVERSITY EXPERIENCES
INTERNATIONAL AND STUDY ABROAD
ELECTRONIC TECHNOLOGIES
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
INTERNSHIPS AND EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING
COCURRICULAR LEADERSHIP
SUMMARY
 
Chapter 12 - Supportive Campus Environment
 
TRANSITION PROGRAMS
ADVISING NETWORKS
PEER SUPPORT
MULTIPLE SAFETY NETS
SPECIAL SUPPORT PROGRAMS
RESIDENTIAL ENVIRONMENTS
SUMMARY
 
PART IV - Summary and Recommendations
Chapter 13 - Principles for Promoting Student Success
 
TRIED AND TRUE
SLEEPERS
FRESH IDEAS
PERENNIAL CHALLENGES
SUMMARY
 
Chapter 14 - Recommendations
 
ORGANIZING FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
CONCLUSION
 
REFERENCES
APPENDIX A - Research Methods
APPENDIX B - Project DEEP Research Team
APPENDIX C - National Survey of Student Engagement
INDEX

001

The American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) is an independent, membership-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to building human capital for higher education. AAHE is the source of choice for information about higher education on issues that matter in a democratic multiracial society, and AAHE promotes and disseminates examples of effective educational practice to address those issues. AAHE members are a national talent pool willing and ready to share their expertise with colleagues in higher education, policymakers, media professionals, and the public at large. AAHE’s Web address is www.aahe.org.

PREFACE
SOME MONTHS AGO, faculty and administrators from a dozen different colleges and universities came together to discuss the institutional policies and practices they believe are associated with student success. During the three-day meeting, one person attributed his institution’s relatively strong graduation rates and other indicators of quality to the good fortune of having many “gifted amateurs” as colleagues. He quickly added he wasn’t sure how long his college would be able to maintain its excellence relying on well-intentioned “amateurs,” given the profound changes occurring in the student body, the disciplines, pedagogical approaches, and so on. His worry is well placed.
The college-going stakes are higher today than at any point in history, both in terms of costs and potential benefits to students and society. Indeed, virtually all forecasters agree that to be economically self-sufficient in the information-driven world economy, some form of postsecondary education is essential, with a baccalaureate degree being much preferred. This realization has hit all demographic groups, bringing waves of historically underserved students to campus. The task is to do something at a scale never before realized—to provide a high-quality postsecondary education to more than three-quarters of the adult population. Yet many students are not as well prepared academically as faculty members would like. Many students find the social as well as academic environments somewhat foreign—if not unfriendly—and challenging to navigate. In the face of escalating costs and lagging state support, institutions are under mounting pressure from state and federal oversight agencies to demonstrate that they are doing everything possible to keep college affordable and to graduate students in a timely manner. Accreditation agencies require evidence that students are learning what colleges intend.
This is a pretty complicated scenario for gifted amateurs to manage. The times require reflective, student-centered professionals, expert to be sure in their respective disciplines but also knowledgeable and skilled in areas required by the management functions they perform. They must also be familiar with policies and practices that are linked to student success, broadly defined to include satisfaction, persistence, and high levels of learning and personal development of the increasingly diverse students enrolling at their institution. There is no single best curriculum or career path to prepare for this work. There are, however, places to turn to get some good ideas for what to do. One approach is to creatively swipe—in the organizational management guru Tom Peters’s (1987) words—what seems to be working at high-performing institutions. That’s what this book is about—the search for policies and practices associated with student success in college.

PURPOSE OF THE BOOK

The project on which this book is based follows in the tradition of previous efforts to document noteworthy performance in postsecondary settings. Several widely disseminated volumes lay out many of the key concepts associated with student success and strong institutional performance, including Involvement in Learning (Study Group on the Conditions of Excellence in American Higher Education, 1984), and “The Seven Principles for Good Practices in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). A handful of other reports flesh out these and related factors and conditions in more detail, among them Peter Ewell’s synthesis produced for the Education Commission of the States’ (1995) Making Quality Count. Other major studies of educational effectiveness are mentioned in Chapter One. Taken together, these reports point to the following institutional conditions that are important to student development:
• A clear, focused institutional mission
• High standards for student performance
• Support for students to explore human differences and emerging dimensions of self
• Emphasis on early months and first year of study
• Respect for diverse talents
• Integration of prior learning and experience
• Ongoing practice of learned skills
• Active learning
• Assessment and feedback
• Collaboration among students
• Adequate time on task
• Out-of-class contact with faculty
Many of these practices have taken root to varying degrees in different colleges and universities across the country. For example, thanks to the pioneering work of John Gardner and his colleagues, first at the University of South Carolina and more recently at the Policy Center on the First Year of College, most institutions are now concentrating resources on first-year students. Learning communities are becoming increasingly popular, though they vary widely in terms of their structure, coherence, length, and other design elements as recent reports produced by the Washington Center show. Study abroad is receiving additional attention as an enriching educational experience. Service learning and related forms of community involvement appear to benefit both students and the local agencies and people they touch. The national movement to incorporate more active and collaborative learning activities continues to gain momentum. Indeed, we were initially surprised after the first round of National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) results five years ago with the amount of active and collaborative learning students were reporting. However, the few large-scale studies of the phenomena provide only a surface reading of the frequency with which these activities are used, not necessarily the quality of the experiences or their effectiveness, relative to other activities and pedagogical techniques.
These effective educational practices have been around long enough that even casual readers of the professional higher education literature are familiar with them. They are working their way into discipline-based journals as disparate as communication studies, economics, and engineering, as well as periodicals that focus more broadly on the liberal arts and sciences, such as Liberal Education and Daedulus. Absent from the literature is a comprehensive, systematic study of institutions that reach many students with these practices. In other words, what does an educationally effective college or university look like at the turn of the 21st century? The twenty institutions that are the basis of this book serve that purpose nicely.

HOW TO READ AND USE THIS BOOK

The book is divided into four parts. Part One sets the stage, discussing in more detail why we undertook the Documenting Effective Educational Practice (DEEP) project. As we explain in Chapter One, we set out to identify and document what strong-performing colleges and universities do to promote student success, which we defined as higher-than-predicted graduation rates and better-than-predicted student engagement scores on the NSSE. In addition, we summarize how and why we selected this particular set of schools. We also introduce the concept of student engagement and describe its relationship to college student success. Appendix A summarizes the research approach we used to collect information from the participating institutions.
In Part Two (Chapters Two through Seven) we discuss the six overarching features we found to be common to the 20 DEEP colleges and universities. Chapter Two is especially important, as it includes descriptive information about each institution’s mission and context, which is needed to understand and interpret how and why the specific policies and practices illustrated later work so well together to promote student success. As we emphasize throughout, the noteworthy level of performance achieved by these colleges and universities is a product not only of the various programs and practices they have in place, but the numbers of students touched in meaningful ways by one or more, the quality of the respective initiatives, and the synergy and complementarity of these efforts that create a success-oriented campus culture and learning environment. Chapter Six includes some illustrative examples of the circumstances and triggering events that put several DEEP schools on a path toward institutional improvement that created these conditions.
Chapters Eight through Twelve in Part Three present examples of policies, programs, and practices that can be adapted by other institutions to enhance student engagement in each of the five areas of effective educational practice measured by the National Survey of Student Engagement. Even with a book of this length, it’s not possible to describe every noteworthy initiative at these 20 schools. We present a mix of some of the more common examples along with a sprinkling of novel, boutique-like programs to illustrate that institutions can effectively reach fairly large numbers of students with high-quality initiatives while also tailoring other efforts to address the varying needs of different groups of students. We’re convinced that many of these practices can be productively adapted by other institutions, whether or not they are similar in mission, size, and so forth.
In Part Four, we summarize and interpret our findings at a somewhat more abstract level of analysis. Chapter Thirteen synthesizes the principles that guide the work of large numbers of faculty and staff members at DEEP colleges. Chapter Fourteen offers recommendations for colleges and universities that are committed to enhancing student success. In addition to these general recommendations, almost every page of Chapters Two through Twelve contains one or more ideas for improving educational practice. Thus, the book’s utility will increase upon subsequent readings, after the reader absorbs the big picture of what makes for effective educational practice. Indeed, as will become evident, the foundation of strong performance is a multilayered tapestry of enacted mission, coherent operating philosophy, and promising practices woven together and reinforced by key personnel in a consistent, caring way to create a compelling, coherent environment for learning.
Finally, in an effort to make the book reader-friendly, we use research notes and references sparingly throughout the middle sections of the book, as we want readers to focus on what these institutions do by way of effective educational practices. As we indicated earlier, we have benefited from the ground-breaking work of those who have gone before and cite relevant work, especially early in the book and again when summarizing and synthesizing our findings in Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen.
We talked with more than 2,700 people across the 20 campuses during the course of this two-year project, many of them more than once. Though everyone we spoke with contributed to the insights we gleaned about effective educational practice, we mention by name only a few people in the book; most were senior administrators at the time of the study. This enables us to focus mainly on the institutions per se, as opposed to individuals. Even so, as will become clear early on, DEEP colleges are special places precisely because of the people who work, live, and study there.
Indeed, the more time we spent on these campuses, delving into what they do and how they do it, the more we were impressed with the range and quality of their initiatives. This can become mildly problematic, should the high regard we developed for the good work being done at these colleges and universities make it appear that we are proselytizing on their behalf. That’s not our intent, though we admire the convictions that animate these institutions and their willingness—even enthusiasm—for experimenting with promising pedagogical approaches and organizational arrangements. Another reason the text may seem overly generous is that our prose is intentionally descriptive, not evaluative. That is, because we sought to discover and feature what is working well on these campuses, we do not dwell on their shortcomings. No organization is perfect, including these fine colleges and universities. They grapple everyday with many of the same challenges facing most institutions, and we address some of these matters in Chapters Two and Thirteen. For better or worse, we say little about other issues bedeviling these and other colleges today, such as the proper role of athletics and helping students meet the rising cost of college, both of which affect whether various groups of students will benefit to the fullest extent from the college experience. But as we explain later, one of the qualities that makes the DEEP schools distinctive is the way they address issues such as these while keeping their eye on the prize of student success.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

A project such as this has many intellectual debts, not the least of which is to the inspirational students, faculty, and staff at the institutions we visited and the scholars whose prior work continues to inform our understanding of effective practice. Our working partners in this and related initiatives are colleagues at the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE), including Vice President for Programs Barbara Cambridge, President Clara Lovett, and Project Manager Lacey Leegwater. AAHE staff coordinated a series of roundtables in 2003-2004 with different constituent groups around the country that helped inform our understanding of how institutions were using student engagement data in various ways to improve educational practice. These reports are available at (www.aahe.org/DEEP/roundtables.htm).
We are indebted to Sam Cargile and Susan Conner at Lumina Foundation for Education for their keen interest and unwavering support for a study of high-performing colleges. Another key partner is the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts (CILA) at Wabash College, especially President Andrew Ford, Dean Mauri Ditzler, and Professor Charles Blaich, who early on saw promise in how the project could be used to inform liberal arts education and liberal arts colleges. Without the support of Lumina and CILA, this study would have remained just a potentially informative endeavor.
Offering sage advice behind the scenes from beginning to end were past and present members of the NSSE National Advisory Board (http://www.iub.edu/~nsse/html/advisory_board.htm) and DEEP Advisory Panel (http://education.indiana.edu/~nsse/nsse_institute/deep_project/student_success/advisory_board.htm). The latter group does double duty, serving also as advisors to the Building Engagement and Attainment of Minority Students project, a multiple-year initiative also funded by Lumina Foundation for Education.
We owe a special word of gratitude to three friends of student engagement who continue to influence our thinking and work. C. Robert Pace, UCLA professor emeritus, is the progenitor of what we today call student engagement. Bob introduced the concept of quality of effort in the early 1970s, and with Spencer Foundation support launched the College Student Experiences Questionnaire (CSEQ) research program. Many of the questions on the NSSE survey are from the CSEQ. We think of Peter Ewell as the godfather of NSSE, for he chaired the design team that developed the survey and remains a trusted advisor. Russ Edgerton had the foresight and courage to invest in the premise and promise of student engagement when he directed the education program at the Pew Charitable Trusts. Without Russ’s leadership and Pew support, we’d be nowhere near this far along in changing the nature of the public dialogue about what matters to collegiate quality.
In every possible way, we were buoyed by our colleagues and friends at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research. They covered for us during our many trips to DEEP schools, for which we are most grateful. To a person, they are a superbly talented and productive group. Our work and lives are enriched immeasurably by being around them.
Last but certainly not least, the rich and varied expertise of the DEEP research team (Appendix B) made this project a career highlight. Represented as “Associates” in the list of authors, they are co-investigators and key contributors to this volume in every sense of the word. Their insights and excellent field work appear on every page. Equally important, collectively they brought a breadth and depth of perspective and experience that may be heretofore unmatched in studies of colleges and universities. We are deeply appreciative of what they brought and gave to this project and book. Thanks, DEEP team!
 
February 15, 2005
George D. Kuh
Bloomington, Indiana
 
Jillian Kinzie
Bloomington, Indiana

PART I
Introduction
On other campuses, I hear they just read from the book and discuss the material in the abstract. Here we tell how the reading relates to our life—our history and background. It is much more personal and has feeling. I would not be able to relate otherwise; that is what made the education engaging for me.
—California State University at Monterey Bay first-year student
 
The one thing that really helped me to get through college was the faculty. They have this philosophy that the first thing that comes to mind is the student. They have an open door and open ears to what students want to do in college and what they want to learn.
—University of Texas at El Paso senior
 
I never thought I would study abroad because I am such a homebody. . . . I heard about the London Review in a presentation in one of my business classes and I thought I should look into it. I went on the two-week trip and then decided to spend an entire semester abroad.
—University of Kansas senior
Wabash has made me a man. Instantly there’s a lot going on and you’re expected to jump in headfirst. It breeds confidence. You think, “Hey, I can do this, too.” You get the sense that you can achieve anything.
—Wabash College junior
 
The people here have helped me develop who I am. No one ever encouraged me in science before. Internships and study abroad got me into environmental activism. I’ve learned how the majority of the world lives, and that you don’t need all the stuff you think you need. There are so many opportunities here and once I started, I just never quit!
—Wheaton College senior
 
The whole education at UMF is about constant reflection. You develop a deliberate, thinking state of mind. Thinking critically becomes second nature. They’re tricky like that!
—University of Maine at Farmington senior
 
The number one thing I like here is the interaction in the classroom. We have intimacy and respect with the faculty. They don’t baby-sit you, but you get a lot of attention. You’re asked to reflect on yourself and your character, and it broadens your understanding of life. I’m a better leader because of it.
—Longwood University junior
 
Students are so empowered here to be engaged. We truly have ownership of our lives and so we just assume we’ll be in charge of things. It’s amazing how motivated that makes you to take on responsibility and succeed.
—Miami University sophomore
 
There are many challenges here. You have to challenge yourself academically, challenge yourself to understand people from diverse backgrounds, and challenge yourself to understand the community and the world.
—Macalester College junior
These students seem to be thriving in college. They describe experiences that challenged them to develop skills, awareness, and confidence. Although the colleges the students attend are very different, the institutions perform well on two important measures. That is, when the institutions’ resources and student characteristics are taken into consideration, all graduate more students than might be predicted, and their students partake more frequently than predicted in activities that encourage learning and development.
What accounts for these achievements? And what can other colleges and universities learn from them to enhance their own effectiveness?
The Educationally Effective Colleges Quiz includes some clues. (Hint: Review the student quotes earlier.) The answers are at the end of Chapter Two. If you read straight through to that point, without skipping the pages in between, you should do well on the quiz. What will become apparent early on is that the colleges and universities represented in the questions are very different in size and educational mission. Some on the list might surprise you. What they all have in common is that they take undergraduate education very seriously and have implemented policies and practices and cultivated campus cultures that encourage their students to take advantage of a variety of educational opportunities.
To find out more about these institutions and what they do to promote student success, read on!
Exhibit 1. Educationally Effective Colleges Quiz.
002
003

1
Student Engagement
A Key to Student Success
 
 
 
 
FOR DECADES, the college graduation rate has hovered around 50% (Astin, 1975; Braxton, 2000; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Tinto, 1993). Until the 1970s, graduation rates were calculated on a four-year metric. Today the standard denominator is six years, which acknowledges the college-going patterns of contemporary undergraduate students, many of whom attend college part time. Nearly one out of five four-year institutions graduates fewer than one-third of its first-time, full-time, degreeseeking first-year students within six years (Carey, 2004). Even if baccalaureate completion estimates are low, as some claim (Adelman, 2004), everyone agrees that persistence and educational attainment rates, as well as the quality of student learning, must improve if postsecondary education is to meet the needs of our nation and our world. Indeed, as we write, the House subcommittee drafting the reauthorization legislation for the Higher Education Act has included language requiring colleges and universities to report degree completion rates for certificates and degrees for students who start at the institution or who transfer to it. Although not everyone agrees as to the most appropriate way to compute graduation rates, it is clear that increasing persistence and degree completion is a high priority for many institutions. The best predictors of whether a student will graduate or not are academic preparation and motivation (Adelman, 2004; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Thus, the surest way to increase the number of “successful” students—those who persist, benefit in desired ways from their college experiences, are satisfied with college, and graduate—is to admit only well-prepared, academically talented students (Kuh, 2001a).
The problem with this approach is obvious. More people, from a wider, deeper, and more diverse pool of undergraduates, are going to college (Keller, 2001). Moreover, in the coming decade, four-fifths of high school graduates will need some form of postsecondary education to acquire the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary to address the complex social, economic, and political issues they will face (Kazis, Vargas, & Hoffman, 2004).
Because admitting only the most talented and well-prepared students is neither a solution nor an option, are there other promising approaches to enhancing student success? Decades of research studies on college-impact and persistence suggest a promising area of emphasis: student engagement.

WHY EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE MATTERS

What students do during college counts more in terms of what they learn and whether they will persist in college than who they are or even where they go to college. That is, the voluminous research on college student development shows that the time and energy students devote to educationally purposeful activities is the single best predictor of their learning and personal development (Astin, 1993; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Pace, 1980). Certain institutional practices are known to lead to high levels of student engagement (Astin, 1991; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; Kuh, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 1991; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). Perhaps the best-known set of engagement indicators is the “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). These principles include student-faculty contact, cooperation among students, active learning, prompt feedback, time on task, high expectations, and respect for diverse talents and ways of learning. Also important to student learning are institutional environments that are perceived by students as inclusive and affirming and where expectations for performance are clearly communicated and set at reasonably high levels (Education Commission of the States, 1995; Kuh, 2001b; Kuh et al., 1991; Pascarella, 2001).
All these factors and conditions are positively related to student satisfaction, learning and development on a variety of dimensions, and persistence (Astin, 1984, 1985, 1993; Bruffee, 1993; Goodsell, Maher, & Tinto, 1992; Johnson, Johnson, & Smith, 1991; McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, & Smith, 1986; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991; Pike, 1993; Sorcinelli, 1991). Thus, educationally effective colleges and universities—those that add value—channel students’ energies toward appropriate activities and engage them at a high level in these activities (Education Commission of the States, 1995; Study Group on the Conditions of Excellence in American Higher Education, 1984).
In sum, student engagement has two key components that contribute to student success. The first is the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and other activities that lead to the experiences and outcomes that constitute student success. The second is the ways the institution allocates resources and organizes learning opportunities and services to induce students to participate in and benefit from such activities. What the institution does to foster student success is of particular interest, as those are practices over which a college or university has some direct influence. That is, if faculty and administrators use principles of good practice to arrange the curriculum and other aspects of the college experience, students would ostensibly put forth more effort. Students would write more papers, read more books, meet more frequently with faculty and peers, and use information technology appropriately, all of which would result in greater gains in such areas as critical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, and responsible citizenship.
Many colleges claim to provide high-quality learning environments for their students. As evidence, schools point to educationally enriching opportunities they make available, such as honors programs, cocurricular leadership development programs, and collaboration with faculty members on a research project. Too often, however, such experiences are products of serendipity or efforts on the part of students themselves—the first component of engagement. Moreover, for every student who has such an experience, there are others who do not connect in meaningful ways with their teachers and their peers, or take advantage of learning opportunities. As a result, many students leave school prematurely, or put so little effort into their learning that they fall short of benefiting from college to the extent they should.
Are low levels of engagement by many students inevitable? Or can institutions fashion policies, programs, and practices that encourage students to participate in educationally purposeful activities—so that a greater number of students may achieve their potential?
In the for-profit sector, a time-honored approach to improving effectiveness is identifying and adapting the practices of high-performing organizations. If we can identify colleges and universities that “add value” to their students’ experiences, might we be able to learn from them ways to create powerful learning environments for all students? These questions led us to the study we describe next.

DOCUMENTING EFFECTIVE EDUCATIONAL PRACTICE (DEEP)

The research team set out to identify colleges and universities that perform well in two areas: student engagement and graduation rates. First, we used a regression model to identify baccalaureate-granting institutions that had higher-than-predicted scores on the five clusters of effective educational practice used by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The clusters are level of academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty members, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment (see Exhibit 1.1). Many research studies show that participating in activities related to these clusters is linked with desired outcomes of college. We used a second regression model to determine the predicted graduation rates of these schools, and compared those rates with their actual six-year graduation rate.
Both regression models took into account student characteristics and institutional features such as size, selectivity, and location. Thus, “higher-than-predicted” means that the institutions generally performed better than they were expected to, given their student and institutional characteristics (Appendix A). More information about the prediction models used to identify the institutions in this study is available at (http://education.indiana.edu/~nsse/nsse_institute/deep_project/student_success/research_methods.htm).
Exhibit 1.1. Summary of the NSSE Clusters of Effective Education Practice.
004
005
006
Higher-than-predicted levels of engagement and graduation represent something meaningful beyond what students bring to college. Arguably, at such colleges and universities students are taking advantage of the opportunities the institutions provide for their learning. In addition, the institutions themselves are presumed to be doing something that encourages students to take part in effective, educationally purposeful activities.
The 20 institutions in this study are among a larger number that met the criteria for higher-than-predicted student engagement and graduation. They are not necessarily the “most engaging” institutions in the country, nor do they necessarily have the “highest” graduation rates. Nevertheless, they are performing at a level that is better than expected, taking into account a variety of factors.
We selected this particular group of colleges and universities in part to represent the diversity of baccalaureate-granting institutions. Nine are private; 11 are public. Some are large research-intensive universities; others focus exclusively on undergraduate education. Some are residential; others enroll substantial numbers of commuting and part-time students. One has fewer than 700 undergraduate students (Sweet Briar College), whereas others enroll more than 20,000 (University of Kansas, University of Michigan). Two are historically black colleges and universities (Fayetteville State University and Winston-Salem State University). Two are Hispanic-serving institutions—California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Two are women’s colleges (Alverno and Sweet Briar). One is a men’s college (Wabash).
At all but a few, the range of student ability and academic preparation is substantial. While standardized test scores place the University of Michigan and Miami University among the most selective public universities in the country, other institutions, such as Fayetteville State University and UTEP, provide educational access to many students marginally prepared for college-level work. The private liberal arts colleges in the study practice selective admissions to varying degrees.
Commuter and part-time students are numerous at some DEEP colleges, such as UTEP, CSUMB, and George Mason. Others, such as Macalester, Sweet Briar, University of Michigan, and Wabash, enroll almost an entirely residential, full-time student body. Miami, Wofford, Gonzaga, and George Mason University are among the top 10 universities in proportion of students who study abroad during college.
The DEEP institutions are diverse in mission, selectivity, size, control, location, and student characteristics (see Table 1.1). Thus, other colleges and universities will be able to identify philosophical underpinnings and educational policies and practices that they can adapt in order to enhance their educational effectiveness.
Table 1.1 DEEP Schools
007
008
009
The primary purpose of this project was to discover what a diverse set of institutions does to promote student success so other colleges and universities that aspire to enhance the quality of the undergraduate experience might learn from their example. As we began the study, however, we did not assume these colleges were aware of the reasons for their effectiveness; indeed, there are disadvantages to being successful without knowing why. In Good to Great, a study of organizations that attained and then sustained a level of superlative performance for at least 15 years, Collins (2001) warned that knowing what good firms have in common with others is not nearly as important as knowing what distinguishes them from others. Not knowing what contributes to exceptional performance makes an institution vulnerable to losing over time what made it successful in the first place. Thus, a secondary purpose of the study was to help strong-performing institutions better understand what they do that has the desired effects.
Toward these ends, the DEEP research team conducted two multiple-day visits to each of the 20 campuses. We reviewed countless documents and Web sites prior to, during, and after the site visits. We visited more than 50 classrooms and laboratories, observed faculty and staff meetings, spent more than 1,000 hours on campus, and talked in all with more than 2,700 people—many of them more than once—to learn what these schools do to promote student success.
Appendix A provides more information about the selection processes for these schools and describes our data collection and analysis procedures. Additional details about the project can be found at ( http://education.indiana.edu/~nsse/nsse_institute/deep_project/student_success/research_methods.htm).

KEEP IN MIND

• We do not claim that these 20 institutions are the “best” or the “most educationally effective” of the more than 700 four-year colleges and universities that had used NSSE by 2003. At the same time, their performance is noteworthy, and they offer many examples of promising practices that could be adapted and used profitably at other institutions.
• Our examination focused exclusively on four-year colleges and universities. This is because NSSE was designed for use by the four-year sector of colleges and universities. A counterpart survey for two-year colleges, the Community College Survey of Student Engagement, was established in 2003. Though by necessity we could include only four-year colleges and universities that administered NSSE between 2000 and 2002, many of these lessons may well apply to most four-year institutions and are worthy of consideration in two-year institutions and to postbaccalaureate programs as well.
• Because we cannot describe every educationally effective policy and practice employed by the 20 DEEP colleges and universities that warrant attention, we have focused on examples that have potential for use at other institutions.
• Whatever the path each of these 20 institutions followed to achieve effectiveness, each stands confidently, rejecting imitation. Each has its own cultural traditions, history, and motivations for improvement that differ somewhat from the others. In addition, each tailors its own educationally purposeful activities to accommodate the students it attracts. Therefore, we hope readers will adapt and apply relevant lessons from these descriptions to their own institutional context.
Although we emphasize characteristics shared by most of the schools (Chapters Two through Seven), we also occasionally refer to aspects that describe only some. For example, what works at Wabash College, a men’s college, might not work for men at coeducational institutions. Also, some institutions enjoy advantages provided by their location and surrounding communities that are not possible to replicate: George Mason University and the greater Washington, D.C. area, the Evergreen State College and the nearby Puget Sound, and the University of Maine at Farmington and the rural, forested landscape.
• Many effective practices we illustrate are familiar. For example, hundreds of colleges and universities offer learning communities, first-year seminars, service learning, or study abroad opportunities. At every institution, some students and faculty members get to know one another quite well. What sets these 20 schools and other educationally effective institutions apart from the majority is how well they implement their programs and practices and the meaningful ways one or many of these initiatives have touched a large number of students. To get a sense of the extent to which your college or university approximates what DEEP schools do to promote student success, think about the following as you read about what these institutions do:
• How well do we promote student success?
• How many students do our efforts reach in meaningful ways and what is our evidence for this?
• To what extent are our programs and practices complementary and synergistic, thereby having a greater impact than the sum of each individual initiative?
• To what extent are our initiatives sustainable in terms of financial and human resources?
• What are we doing that is not represented among the policies and practices described here, and what evidence justifies doing it?
• What are we not doing that we should? How might we adapt certain policies and practices for our unique context and circumstances?

NO SINGLE BLUEPRINT FOR STUDENT SUCCESS

A final issue to keep in mind is that there are many roads to becoming an educationally engaging institution. These institutions have many similar policies and practices, yet differences exist. Each of the 20 colleges and universities in the study found its own way to educational effectiveness, experimenting with some homegrown ideas and frequently adapting promising practices discovered at other institutions. At some schools—the Evergreen State College, Macalester College, University of Michigan, and Ursinus College—the curriculum is the focal point for promoting student success. Gonzaga University, Longwood University, Miami University, and University of Maine at Farmington (UMF) use out-of-class activities to enhance student learning by connecting students in productive ways to their studies and to the institution. Sometimes a convergence of external forces such as changing accreditation standards and an authentic desire to improve student learning move schools to assess systematically aspects of the student experience and institutional performance; Alverno College and California State University at Monterey Bay (CSUMB) are examples. At some schools, such as UMF, University of Texas at El Paso, Fayetteville State, and George Mason, visionary leaders pointed the way. At others—CSUMB, Evergreen State, Michigan, Sewanee, Sweet Briar, and Wabash—a salient founding mission and strong campus culture are touchstones for student success. At all DEEP schools, a unique combination of external and internal factors worked together to crystallize and support an institutionwide focus on student success. No blueprint exists to reproduce what they do, or how, in another setting.
The absence of such a blueprint and the fact that many roads lead to student success are, in fact, good news for those who desire to enhance student learning and engagement at their own institutions. Many of the programs, policies, and practices at DEEP schools are potentially transportable to any college or university. As you read what we found, consider how these examples might be adapted to address the educational needs of your students and to fit the mission, people, and cultures of your institution.

PART II
Properties and Conditions Common to Educationally Effective Colleges
Gemstone: A precious or semi-precious stone, especially before it is cut and polished for use as a gem. (Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, 1963, p. 555)
 
Like gemstones, the 20 colleges and universities in this study are attractive in some ways. At the same time, they differ at least on the surface one from another when set side by side. Some have polished reputations and considerable national visibility. Others might be considered diamonds in the rough. All have minor flaws that are easy to overlook, given their other attractive attributes. Gemstones are not just necessarily pretty but have enduring qualities that can be arranged in a variety of settings or combined to create distinctively different visual effects. They have both sentimental and financial value that increase over time. All are precious to those who own them. Most important for our purposes, gemstones represent something to be admired—natural materials that become even more appealing because of the hard work put into polishing and arranging their properties so that under scrutiny their character and appeal are striking.
The 20 DEEP colleges and universities are, by almost any measure of student success, gemstones. They share six features that foster student engagement and persistence:
• A “living” mission and “lived” educational philosophy
• An unshakeable focus on student learning
• Environments adapted for educational enrichment
• Clearly marked pathways to student success
• An improvement oriented ethos
• Shared responsibility for educational quality and student success
Although we discuss each separately, these features are not independent or mutually exclusive. That is, elements of one can be found in others, and they work together to shape the effectiveness of the whole. Like a gemstone that derives its beauty and value from a combination of cut, clarity, and color, these schools perform as well as they do precisely because their policies and practices are linked in complementary ways to promote student success. Moreover, as we explain in Chapter Thirteen, the impact on student success is multiplied when institutions create these conditions and expose students to a variety of synergistic, effective, educational practices.

2
“Living” Mission and “Lived” Educational Philosophy
EVERY ONE of the 20 DEEP colleges and universities has its own particular mix of mission-driven educational practices. But all share two characteristics: (1) clearly articulated educational purposes and aspirations, and (2) a coherent, relatively well understood philosophy that guides “how we do things here.” Together, the mission and philosophy provide a rationale for the institution’s educational programs, policies, and practices. Some of the DEEP colleges and universities have maintained a consistent approach over time in terms of their educational goals. Others changed their mission, such as embracing coeducation. Over time, all have tweaked their educational purposes, philosophy, and offerings in order to respond in purposeful ways to changing times and student characteristics and educational needs.

MISSION

Mission refers to the overarching purposes of the institution—what it is and stands for as well as what it aspires to be (Keeton, 1971; Kuh, Schuh, Whitt, & Associates, 1991). The mission establishes the tone of a college and conveys its educational purposes, whether based on religious, ideological, or educational beliefs, giving direction to all aspects of institutional life, including the policies and practices that foster student success.
Every college has two missions. The one that comes immediately to mind is the espoused mission. Typically, this is what a school writes about itself—its mission statement. Large public universities usually have broad, expansive mission statements that promise something to almost everyone, as is expected by the taxpayers who support them. Many smaller colleges—especially denominational colleges and special purpose institutions such as single-sex colleges and engineering and technology institutions—have espoused missions that specifically delineate their educational priorities.
The second mission is the school’s enacted mission—what the institution actually does and who it serves. The enacted mission is arguably more important to student success than the espoused mission because it guides the daily actions of those in regular contact with students—in classrooms, in residence halls, and on playing fields—as well as those who set institutional policy, make strategic plans and decisions, and allocate resources. The enacted mission often differs from what the institution says or writes about itself. A university’s mission statement might, for example, feature a commitment to teaching undergraduates, but its enacted mission focuses human and fiscal resources on graduate students and research. A college might claim in its mission statement to be concerned with “the education of the whole student” but, in fact, provide few opportunities for intellectual or social development outside of the classroom.