The Irish survey of student engagement: A comparative analysis with international surveys of student engagement.

Carty, John (2015) The Irish survey of student engagement: A comparative analysis with international surveys of student engagement.


According to Coates (2010), measuring engagement can provide a means to develop a fuller understanding of the student experience above and beyond that ascertained through student satisfaction surveys. To examine this topic further, this research analyses the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) and compares it to similar surveys of student engagement from other countries. The surveys deal with student engagement, rather than satisfaction and are modelled on the first such survey used in the United States and Canada, the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). The underpinning design decisions for the NSSE is based on the premise that what students do during college counts more in terms of desired outcomes than who they are or event where they go to college (Kuh, 2001). The development of the NSSE was based on Chickering and Gameson’s (1987) seven practices in undergraduate education and other instruments that measured the student experience.
In Ireland, the National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (HEA, 2011) recommended that every Irish higher education institution should put in place a comprehensive anonymous student feedback system, coupled with structures to ensure that action is taken promptly in relation to student concerns. This brought about the Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) and the central objective of this project is to develop a valuable source of information about students’ experiences of higher education in Ireland by asking students themselves.
This paper aims to address the question: how does the Irish Survey of Student Engagement compare to other such surveys and is it achieving what it set out to do? The researcher proposes recommendations for improving the Irish Survey of Student Engagement and explores alternative options to measuring student engagement.
The methodology employed is secondary research of the actual surveys used elsewhere and related academic journal articles on this topic. The research explores the background and context of the surveys and provides an overview of each. Throughout the paper, the local experience at the researcher’s Irish higher education institute is considered and used to support claims made, where possible.
The surveys of student engagement have immense value and encourage a participation rate that could not be replicated through qualitative means. With some more rigid approaches and a combination of other methodological possibilities, the Irish survey could be more comparable internationally, but this may not be of great importance. Of utmost importance is comparisons of institutions within a country and due to the latitude given to institutions in how they participate, this is not always possible. This merits attention and a more cohesive approach should be developed in order address the important underpinning rationale for the research, to give students a voice and to improve student engagement.

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