Faculty Focus


Students Study about 15 Hours a Week, NSSE Finds

Findings released today show that on average, full-time college students study 15 hours a week. However, study time differed by academic majors, with seniors in engineering averaging about 19 hours per week, while their peers in the social sciences and business averaged around 14 hours per week.

Faculty expectations for study time by field corresponded closely to what students reported, but there were exceptions. Social sciences faculty, for example, expected four more hours per week than the average social sciences senior reported.

These findings, released by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), raise questions about areas where a mismatch may exist between the work asked of students and what they believe necessary to succeed, and also whether faculty expectations for study time may need to be recalibrated.

The survey also documents a variety of student approaches to studying and learning. Taking careful notes during class was widespread, but only two out of three students frequently reviewed their notes after class. Only half said they frequently outlined major topics and ideas from course materials or discussed effective study strategies with faculty or students. All of the effective learning strategies were positively related to other measures of student engagement such as academic challenge and active and collaborative learning.

“Our findings suggest that college and university faculty and academic leaders need to reflect on their expectations for academic work, particularly by discipline. They can also do more to help students become effective learners by explicitly teaching study skills and strategies,” Alexander C. McCormick, NSSE director and associate professor of education at Indiana University, said in a statement.

The report, Fostering Student Engagement Campuswide—Annual Results 2011, details results from a 2011 survey of 416,000 first-year students and seniors attending 673 U.S. colleges and universities. The report’s theme illustrates the value of connecting student engagement results to specific campus programs and units to encourage greater collaboration to improve the quality of the undergraduate experience.

NSSE’s annual survey provides diagnostic, comparative information about the prevalence of effective educational practices at participating colleges and universities. Other noteworthy findings from the 2011 survey and its companion surveys, the Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement (BCSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE), include:

  • About one in five entering students expected paying for college to be “very difficult,” and those who expected financial difficulty also anticipated more trouble learning course material, managing time, and interacting with faculty. These students also placed a higher value on the importance of getting help with school work and campus support services.
  • A large majority of students (88% of first-years and 86% of seniors) frequently took careful notes during class. However, only two-thirds of all students frequently reviewed their notes after class.
  • Only seven out of ten students frequently sought help when they did not understand course material.
  • The majority of seniors (83%) discussed career plans with a faculty member or advisor, and 75% perceived substantial gains in work-related knowledge and skills.
  • About half of seniors participated in an internship, practicum, field experience, or clinical assignment. Participation rates differed by discipline, from a high of 71% for education majors to a low of 43% for business majors.
  • First-generation college students (neither parent has a bachelor’s degree) spent significantly less time preparing for class than students with at least one college-educated parent, yet they were more likely to use a variety of learning strategies, including taking careful notes during class, connecting learning to things they already know, and identifying key information from readings.

NSSE’s Annual Results 2011 is sponsored by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and can can be downloaded from the NSSE Website.