Consistently low level of student engagement with lecturers outside of class

The Irish Survey of Student Engagement reveals students’ experiences with higher education

Over 42% of students “never” discuss course topics, ideas, or concepts with academic staff outside of class, according to the results of the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) 2018, which were released last Tuesday. This is consistent with the 2017 results, which saw 42.3% of students never discussing coursework with their lecturers in a non-classroom environment.

Student-faculty interaction appears to be quite low for first year students, with 50.8% for never discussing coursework with lecturers outside of class. However, only 37% of final year students never discuss their course with staff, indicating that students are more likely to hold discussions with lecturers outside of class as they progress through college.

The ISSE survey is a confidential online review which asks students from 27 higher education institutions in Ireland about their engagement with learning and their learning environments.

38,371 students took part in the survey this year, producing an overall national response rate of 28%. This was the highest response rate since the ISSE began, having increased from 27.2% in 2017. The survey looks at areas such as higher order learning, student-faculty interaction and the supportiveness of learning environments.

In relation to learning strategies, only 15.3% of students reported reviewing their notes after class “very often”, while 41.6% of students said they reviewed their notes “sometimes”.

8.8% of students said they “very often” included diverse perspectives, to include political, religious, racial/ethnic, and gender, in discussions or assignments, versus 33.8% who “never” included diversity in their work.

50.4% of students found that they “never” talked about career plans with academic staff, with only 3.8% discussing their academic performance with staff “very often”.

However, students tended to engage positively with their peers. 33.2% of students indicated “often” working with peers on projects or assignments, and 30.4% “often” prepared for exams by discussing or working through course material with other students.

Students did not report positively on the extent to which their institution emphasises services and activities that support learning and development. Students found that contact between students from different backgrounds – social, racial/ethnic, religious, or otherwise – was emphasised “very much” by institutions in only 15.1% cases, with 22.8% of students regarding this emphasis as “very little”.

Only 15.9% of final year undergraduate students thought their institution “very much” emphasised providing support for their overall well-being – recreation, health care, counselling – while 24.8% of first year students felt the same.

The experiences of first year undergraduate, final year undergraduate, and postgraduate taught students differed in several areas. 11.7% of first year undergraduates said they “very often” explored how to apply their learning in the workplace, in comparison to 15.7% of final year undergraduates and 23.1% of postgraduates who indicated the same.

19.3% of first year students reported they “very often” improved knowledge and skills that contribute to employability, while 22.4% of final year students and 31.2% of postgraduates agreed.

Only 17.6% of students indicated that their experience at their institution “very much” contributed to their knowledge, skills, and personal development in solving complex real-world problems.

When asked about fitness, it was found that 30.1% of students said they never exercised or participated in physical fitness activities during the academic year.

Universities were seen to have a more supportive learning environment and better engagement with higher order learning than other institutions. Institutes of Technology, on the other hand, reported better quality of interactions and a greater number of student-faculty interactions. However, if given the chance to “start over again”, 84.9% of students remarked that they would either “probably” or “definitely” go to the same institution they are now attending.

The ISSE was developed in response to the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030’s recommendation that higher education institutions should have a comprehensive anonymous student feedback system. The results of the survey are intended to add value for students and staff at institutional level and to inform national policy.

Sarah Moran

Sarah Moran is the current Head Copyeditor of Trinity News. She is also a Senior Sophister English Literature student.