April 22, 2004

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Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

National research report lauds KU for 'effective educational practices'

LAWRENCE -- In a new report on best college educational practices, researchers lauded the University of Kansas as an "engaging public research university" and noted that "many other colleges and universities will benefit from learning about KU's policies and practices."

The 2004 Project DEEP, or Documenting Effective Educational Practice, report also commended the university for placing strong emphasis on the quality of its undergraduate teaching and learning.

"Many faculty members impressed us with genuine care and concern they had for students," the report said.

Project DEEP is a follow-up to the 2001 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), which collected information from more than 155,000 first-year and senior students at 470 four-year colleges and universities. Because KU students' scores on that survey were higher than predicted, KU was among only 20 universities selected for a site visit by the Project DEEP researchers.

The 50-page report was prepared by the NSSE Institute for Effective Educational Practice at Indiana University and the American Association for Higher Education, which sent a team of six faculty researchers from across the country to KU for two separate site visits in 2002 and 2003. More than 110 students, faculty, staff and administrators were interviewed.

Other key findings about the KU experience included:

 • "KU has a distinctive 'sense of place' that instills school pride and an excitement about learning."

 • "Outstanding library collections, teaching museums and information technology complement and enrich classroom instruction."

 • There is a strong commitment to teaching excellence, emphasized in KU's faculty recruitment and through a "large number of teaching awards."

 • KU "aims to be an academically challenging, yet not overwhelming learning environment for its students."

 • "KU students are especially satisfied with the quality of relations with faculty members, administrators and other students. First-year students reported that they experienced high levels of support to thrive socially at KU."

 • KU has a long-standing commitment to undergraduate research. KU has funded undergraduate research since 1957 and was a pioneer in obtaining National Science Foundation funding for undergraduate research. A strategic plan, Initiative 2001, calls for undergraduate students to either conduct research with a faculty member, have an international experience or be involved in service learning.

 • KU students report "higher levels of involvement" in a range of activities, notably volunteer opportunities, thanks to strong encouragement by faculty and admininistrators to "take initiative."

 • There is a "significant number of senior faculty in entry-level classes" and a decrease in student credit hours being taught by graduate teaching assistants.

 • "KU students experience high levels of support from approachable faculty and GTAs who encourage them to ask questions and contribute to class discussions."

 • "Faculty members are committed to KU's diversity agenda."

Project DEEP assessed the university on five benchmarks -- academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, enriching educational experiences and supportive campus environment. The report also noted that it found three distinctive KU institutional characteristics: collegial environment, emphasis on undergraduate teaching, and traditions and culture.

"There is an open, positive relationship between students and faculty characterized by respect and genuine appreciation," the report said. "In fact, the word 'family' is often used to describe the atmosphere and nature of the relationships that exist on campus."

"One faculty member tells her classes, 'It will take me a little while to learn your names but I will remember them for the rest of my life,'" the report said. "This ethic of individualized attention goes beyond just remembering the person's name. It extends to knowing the person and caring about her/him as an individual."

In the 2001 NSSE survey, KU's score was greater than those of approximately 96 percent of other schools surveyed for senior "student interactions with faculty members" and greater than those of 90 percent of all schools for "enriching educational experiences." KU's score also was greater than those of 88 percent of all schools for "level of academic challenges."

The survey, which established comparative standards for how universities are contributing to learning, was intended to serve as an alternative to college rankings based on institutional resources and public reputation.

The full KU DEEP report is available for download at http://www.ku.edu/~oirp/. For more information on the NSSE, visit its Web site at http://www.iub.edu/~nsse.

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