From Data to Action: Creating the University of Calgary NSSE Student Engagement Map

Student engagement can be defined based on two features within higher education: the student and institution features. The student feature represents the amount of time or effort students in post secondary education place on their studies and activities that promote educational success and satisfaction. The institution feature accounts for how the institution enhances these activities through their resources and curricula (Kuh, 2009). A tool that is widely accepted and used throughout North America to measure such practices is known as the National Survey of Student Engagement or NSSE (Kuh, 2009).

In 2015/2016, the University of Calgary committed to moving forward with the 2014 NSSE data. This meant assisting faculties and departments to further analyze and interpret quantitative and qualitative data. However, educational leaders recognized the value of not only analyzing and working with data within faculties but also working together as a community to begin to foster and encourage student engagement across faculties and disciplines. This prompted the creation of the NSSE Student Engagement Retreats hosted by the Educational Development Unit in the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. During 2016, educational leaders, faculty members and staff were given the opportunity to discuss results and successes from the 2014 NSSE and brainstorm ideas on how to improve student engagement within faculties and across campus.

Through discussions that occurred during the retreats on fostering student engagement, leaders identified the need to determine and learn more about what the institution is doing as a whole to encourage student engagement through its programs, initiatives and courses. Based on this feedback, the NSSE Student Engagement Map was developed. This map showcases some of the initiatives and programs that allow students to be engaged at the institutional, faculty and course levels. It maps out these initiatives primarily by the four focal engagement indicator themes measured through the NSSE. These themes are Academic Challenge, Campus Environment, Experiences with Faculty and Learning with Peers.


Upon further reflection, high-impact practices within the NSSE Student Engagement Map were then identified. These practices can be defined as experiences that require students to interact with faculty and other students collaboratively, and to learn outside of the classroom. They require more time and effort in students’ learning and student engagement is notably higher (Kuh, 2009). Some examples of high-impact practices are capstone courses and projects, internships, research with faculty, learning communities, seminar courses, study abroad and writing-intensive courses, among others.

The response from faculty and staff has been largely positive throughout the development of this resource. Associate Deans Teaching and Learning respond to this tool as a great resource to highlight available programs and initiatives and to be able to provide students with opportunities to learn about support and engagement. However, the vision of this map is to not only provide a resource for students but also to develop a culture of collaboration across disciplines. It will become a tool for faculty and staff to share and learn from colleagues across campus as we work to enhance student engagement at the University of Calgary.

*Note: The intention of this map is to showcase programs, initiatives, and courses throughout the entire institution. It is a living document that will constantly be changing and growing. If you are engaged with or know of a program or course that compliments and exemplifies any of the categories in this map please feel free to contact Nahum Arguera (Research Analyst in the Educational Development Unit) at


Kuh, G. D. (2009). What student affairs professionals need to know about student engagement. Journal of College Student Development50(6), 683-706. DOI:10.1353/csd.0.0099

About ndarguer 1 Article
Nahum Arguera, Research Analyst, Educational Development Unit, Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, University of Calgary

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