With the release of The American Freshman: National Norms, Fall 2012, we know many of you will be thinking about how to put both the national findings and your own institutional results to good use on campus. Here’s how a few institutions are using their freshman survey results to inform and improve campus practices.

Ellen Peters, director of institutional research at the University of Puget Sound, on CIRP data and faculty development:

Knowing who’s in the classroom
“It’s easy to make assumptions as to who is sitting in our classroom. CIRP data shows the breadth of opinions in the classroom and how students think of themselves. Faculty are leveraging CIRP data to find out more about students and their feelings on certain issues, such as politics, social issues and diversity, that that can be hard to talk about in the classroom. We found that our students have very divided opinions on certain issues. CIRP data gives faculty a greater confidence to engage with students.”

Teaching to the students
“One CIRP construct we’re very interested in is academic self-concept. Knowing that our students rate themselves as above average on academic ability and writing ability but that they don’t view their mathematical abilities as strong is helpful for faculty in determining their approach to teaching. There’s a difference in teaching students who feel they know a lot as opposed to those who feel they have a lot to learn.”

Faculty using results
“We share CIRP data with faculty so they see it as applicable to their work. As a result, the visibility of the IR department and its value to the institution has increased. More and more faculty are coming to us and asking for CIRP data. Not only does this allow them to get data that is meaningful to them but it has allowed IR to play greater role on campus.”

Art Heinricher, dean of undergraduate studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, on using CIRP results to discover what motivates students:

Myth busting
“We use CIRP data to address some of the assumptions people have about WPI. There’s a misperception that most of our students are first generation students from blue collar backgrounds. That might have been true in the 70s but that hasn’t been true for a long time. Now about 50 percent of our students have at least one parent with an advanced degree. The data gives prospective students and parents a better and more honest picture of who our students are.”

What motivates students
“For a long time we have been very interested to find out what motivates students. We have been using CIRP data to see changes in this for our incoming student population over the last 10 years.”

Joanna Royce-Davis, dean of students at the University of the Pacific, on using CIRP data to improve first-year programming:

Improving the first-year program
“Results from CIRP surveys have helped inform first-year programming efforts and particularly in the development of the university’s leadership program. We discovered that when we compared our CIRP data to that of our peer institutions, our students are less likely to identify and recognize their leadership abilities. We found that students interpreted the idea of leadership as positional—as a title or a label—and not as a quality within themselves. We realized that students need to recognize their potential as leaders before we can begin to work on their capacity to be leaders. Leveraging CIRP data from the social self-concept construct, we addressed this need by incorporating an extended, off-campus orientation program focused on leadership development into our first-year program.”

“Our first year program also has a virtual component known as the Pacific One Word Project. As part of this project, students are invited to choose one word to describe themselves. They are then photographed holding their chosen word. It’s aimed at developing these students’ social and emotional competencies and gives them a powerful sense of self, and the results have been meaningful. We are already seeing greater activism, greater clarity of purpose and sense of self-efficacy. We are also seeing students who are more articulate about their leadership identity development.”

Sharing results with students
“Sharing data with students has proved very beneficial. We have found that students want to know about the conversations taking place or not taking place on campus. It also serves as a form of social norming, and provides students insight into the behaviors and values of their peers. This can help students determine if they need help, especially around issues of stress, which affect many of our students.”