• SASSE
    Annual Report 2016: Engaging the #StudentVoice
    Annual Report 2016: New research on the quality of students’ educational experiences
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  • SASSE
    SASSE
    South African Survey of Student Engagement
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SASSE Home


About SASSE


What is student engagement?

In short, student engagement can be defined as what students do (the time and energy they devote to educationally purposeful activities) and what institutions do (the extent to which they employ effective educational practices to induce students to do the right things).

One of the primary applications of student engagement data is improving the quality of teaching and learning in higher-education institutions.

Student engagement surveys were developed in the US in response to a need to research the student experience in a reliable and valid way, with the end goal of improving teaching and learning.

What does SASSE do?

The SASSE is a survey that gathers comprehensive information from universities relating to high-impact experiences and behaviours identified as having an influence on the teaching and learning experience.

The questionnaire collects information about

  • Students’ participation in dozens of educationally purposeful activities;
  • Students’ interaction with lecturers and their peers, and the degree to which they engage with diversity;
  • The way students perceive the university environment;
  • Estimates of educational and personal growth since starting higher education; and
  • Background and demographic information.
What is the survey about?

The aim of SASSE is to provide institutions with high-quality data to encourage changes in the learning environment intended to promote student success. Data can be used diagnostically to provide institutions with information that is actionable and that can enhance the discourse about quality in education from the perspective of teaching, learning, and effective educational practices.

Student engagement is measured on the basis of four student engagement themes:

Academic challenge includes questions on how often students analyse, evaluate, and apply numerical information; how often they engage in learning strategies that have been proven to be effective; and whether students engage in deep approaches to learning, namely, whether they apply reflective and integrative strategies and higher-order learning approaches. Higher-education institutions promote high levels of student achievement by emphasising the importance of academic effort and setting high expectations for student performance.

Learning with peers is based on the premise that students learn when they are working with other students, in and out of class. Collaborative learning involves asking other students for help in understanding course material or explaining the material to others, studying with other students or working on group assignments. Other questions relate to the frequency of discussions with diverse others – people of different races, ethnicities, economic backgrounds, religious beliefs or political views.

Experiences with staff relates to the assertion that by interacting with staff members inside and outside the classroom, students learn how experts think first-hand, learn how to solve practical problems and are exposed to various teaching practices. The items under this theme ask students about the extent to which they discuss their grades, future plans, and ideas with staff, whether they worked with staff on activities outside of class and how prompt assessment feedback is.

Campus environment asks students about how they experience the campus environment and the quality of their relationships with other students and academic and administrative staff. Students’ perceptions of the institution’s emphasis of academic and non-academic engagement practices are also probed.

Additionally to these four themes, a set of items make up high-impact practices. High-impact practices relate to educationally enriching opportunities that augment the academic programmes students participate in. These items enquire about learning experiences, practical work, research with staff and service-learning experiences, as means to integrate and apply knowledge.

How are survey results used?

Institutions use their data to identify aspects of the undergraduate experience inside and outside the classroom that can be improved through changes in policies and practices more consistent with good practices in undergraduate education.  

Other instruments that measure student engagement include:

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