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Centre for the Study of Students in Postsecondary Education
Centre for the Study of Students in Postsecondary Education
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 Research

First Generation Students
NSSE Open-ended Comment Analysis
Models and Trends in Course Evaluations
Debt Load and Disability
OISE Graduate Student Experience
Victoria College: Small Class Experience
Chemistry Student Engagement

 
 
 
First Generation Students in Postsecondary Education 
The FGS project is a series of research initiatives exploring the resources available to, and conditions impacting the success of, students who are first in their families to attend postsecondary education. Each of these initiatives is in progress. Included among the projects that focus on First Generation Students are:
 
 
  1. Directory of Initiatives in North America for First Generation Students to Postsecondary Education
  2. Beyond Parental Education and Income: The Effects of Social Capital on First Generation Students’ Higher Education Experience and Outcomes
  3. Exploring the relationship of Parental Education Level and Student Engagement in Educationally Purposeful Activities
     
In May 2007, this research project was presented as a poster session at the annual conference for the Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education as part of the Congress sponsored by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. In March 2008, the directory of FGS initiatives was constructed by OISE Education Commons as a web-based, searchable database, designed to provide institutions and individuals with a comprehensive collection of information about programs, services and resources available to students who are the first in their family to attend postsecondary education.
 

NSSE Open-ended Comment Analysis
The content analysis of the 2006 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) open-ended comments was conducted with a view to better understand students' experiences and to explore the possible factors beyond the NSSE questions that influence student engagement while studying at the University of Toronto. The research findings will help institutional leaders and student affairs professionals to examine student feedback, and to propose institution-level policy changes.


Models and Trends in Course Evaluations
Much has been written in recent years about the problems with course evaluations; issues of bias, reliability and accuracy being three of the most frequently cited challenges. Nonetheless, they are still widely used, as it has been argued that there is no other option that provides the same sort of quantifiable and comparable data required to evaluate teaching for tenure and promotion and by institutional accountability measures. This highlights the need to identify best practices so that these instruments are effectively implemented.

Led by CSS research associates and funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, this project involes a thorough scan of current research and practices related to the evaluation of courses at postsecondary institutions in Ontario, and will result in an outline of trends in student evaluation theory and practice.


Debt Load and Disability
Students with disabilities incur the second highest amount of documented debt associated with attending postsecondary education in Canada of any student group. Data available on student debt load currently provides limited information distinguishing the type of debt (i.e., costs specifically associated with post-secondary education vs. housing, transportation or credit card debt). If more fully available and comprehensive, these data would greatly enhance the ability of disability service providers, financial aid officers and accommodations specialists to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities in post-secondary education are appropriately met. Information on debt loads and financial barriers for students with disabilities in postsecondary education would also assist policy makers in their attempts to support access and success of this student population. To that end, CSS, along with the National Educational Association of Disabled Students (NEADS) are undertaking an assessment of the academic/educational debt load and financial barriers of students with disabilities, in comparison to the overall student population. The goal is to understand, through various sources, the relative debt incurred by students who report disabilities in postsecondary education, the financial barriers to their education that they experience, and the related impact their relative debt and financial barriers have on their educational experience and decisions.


OISE Graduate Student Experience
Considerable scholarly attention and institutional efforts have been directed toward understanding and improving the student experience at Canadian universities. This focus on student experience has primarily emphasized undergraduate student populations, with little to no attention on the experiences of graduate students. Given provincial and national priorities to expand programs of graduate education, universities need to develop facilities and initiatives that address the concerns of this increasing student population. As such, this study serves as an investigation into the graduate student experience at OISE/UT. The project’s collection and analysis of empirical data will serve as compelling evidence for university administrators as well as the scholarly community that focusing on the graduate student experience will be an essential part of future institutional mandates. Data collection has been completed and staff are currently writing this manuscript for review in academic publication. Also, the analyses from this project are helping to shape institutional efforts to develop more holistic and integrated experiences for graduate students during graduate school. 


Victoria College:  Small Class Experience 
The Faculty of Arts and Science’s Curriculum Review and Renewal Committee (CRRC) Final Report states, in section 2.2.2 First Year Experience recommendation 19: “Every first-year student should have the opportunity for a small-class experience; this should evolve to become a requirement rather than merely an opportunity as resources allow.” Victoria College will provide the small course opportunities for each of their first-year students, as well as the advising and the College administration associated with the project. As a condition of its funding by the Faculty of Arts and Science, the project will also include ongoing assessment and review, to be conducted by the Centre. The assessment design and implementation project will involve three major stages with several milestones throughout the project period. The three stages of the project are: 1) Assessment Design; 2) Assessment Implementation; and 3) Assessment Analysis and Reporting. In addition, the Centre will provide an annual report of the findings from that year’s assessment data. 

 
Chemistry Student Engagement Survey
In collaboration with the Department of Chemistry at U of T’s Faculty of Arts and Science, the Chemistry Student Engagement Survey involves the construction and implementation of a survey to assess the student experience and level of engagement among students who take lab-based courses.
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