Students give UW high marks for encouraging critical thinking, leadership

UW–Madison seniors gave the university high marks in a recent survey, with 91 percent saying they would attend UW–Madison again, compared to 85 percent of seniors at peer institutions.

The National Survey of Student Engagement administered in spring 2017 also shows UW–Madison students gave high scores in the four areas of growth laid out in the Wisconsin Experience — the university’s vision for the total student experience in and out of the classroom.

“We’re pleased that our students feel they are getting a strong education and a variety of meaningful experiences on campus,” Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf says. “This survey is one important measure of how we’re doing relative to peer institutions.”

NSSE surveys college freshmen and seniors to assess aspects of student learning, what students think of their undergraduate experience, and how they are benefiting from their studies. It was last conducted at UW–Madison in 2014.

The four areas of the Wisconsin Experience, and the pertinent NSSE scores, are:

  • Intellectual confidence: 82 percent of freshmen and 90 percent of seniors agreed that UW–Madison helped them develop skills for thinking critically and analytically, compared to 77 percent and 84 percent, respectively, at peer institutions.
  • Empathy and humility: 75 percent of seniors often or very often learned something that changed the way they understand an issue, compared to 67 percent at peer institutions.
  • Relentless curiosity: 66 percent of seniors were more likely to often or very often contribute to class discussion, compared to 60 percent at peer institutions.
  • Purposeful action: UW–Madison seniors were more likely than peers to hold a formal leadership role in a student organization, to work with faculty members on research projects and to connect learning to societal problems.

“The NSSE results show that the majority of our students are indeed achieving their Wisconsin Experience with engaged classroom learning combined with meaningful co-curricular experiences,” says Steven Cramer, vice provost for teaching and learning.

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