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Student Experience Project Event to Outline Results Demonstrating Increased Student Belonging and Academic Success


  • SEP engaged 295 faculty and collected feedback from 10,000 students each semester; 
  • Students reported 10.5 percent increase in positive experiences, with gains of 25 percent among structurally disadvantaged groups.
  • Rates of students earning a D, F, or withdrawing from the courses with these practices fell 18 to 26 percent compared with historical data.
  • Efforts to improve student experience also enhanced instructor job satisfaction.

A multi-year national project focused on increasing student belonging and academic success has culminated in a new report from the Student Experience Project (SEP) outlining tangible interventions universities and colleges can implement. The report, Increasing Equity in College Student Experience: Findings from a National Collaborative, draws on a vast data set measuring students’ self-reported sense of belonging and subsequent academic performance. The report also outlines how universities can better understand existing student experiences, address inequities in outcomes, and make changes to support the well-being, engagement, and academic outcomes of all students. 

“Research shows that several aspects of the student experience, including social belonging and identity safety, have a direct impact on academic achievement,” said Samantha Levine, Associate Director, Coalition of Urban Serving Universities. “We’re thrilled to release the results of a years-long examination of impactful evidence-based practices instructors and institutions can use to improve students’ experiences and increase student success.”

"A thriving improvement network requires institutions to build the trust and vulnerability needed to collaborate with a shared purpose in mind,” said Karen Zeribi, Founder & Chief Visionary of Shift. “This includes sharing data and strategies with each other, exploring openly about what works and what doesn’t, and expanding points of view to see systems from multiple perspectives. Throughout the evolution of SEP, we’ve been deliberate to foster this culture of collaboration and trust, from co-designing the improvement aims, measures and theory of change to facilitating frequent learning structures for teams to learn from each other. SEP exemplifies an improvement network that started as a project with a few partners working towards a collective aim to the potential for a national movement in higher education to transform student experience and the equity of educational outcomes. The leaders of SEP have generated tremendous knowledge and resources to benefit higher education, including strategies to work with—not just for—the students we serve." 

SEP engaged 295 faculty over the course of the project to foster classrooms where students feel that they belong, are valued, and that they can succeed. The project collected feedback from 10,000 students each semester about their classroom experiences. The percentage of students reporting an overall positive experience increased by approximately 10.5% in fall 2020 and spring 2021. SEP efforts were most strongly associated with improved experiences for Black, Latina, and Native American women. The percentage of Black, Latina, and Native American women experiencing financial stress reporting an overall positive experience of their learning environment increased by approximately 25% in fall 2020 and spring 2021.

Data also demonstrated that these improvements in student experience are associated with better grades. As students' experiences became more positive over the term, their likelihood of earning an A or B in the course increased, and their likelihood of earning a D, F, or W (formally withdrawing from the course) decreased.

At 12pm ET today (July 13, 2022), the SEP will share the results of the pathbreaking effort during a webinar highlighting the impact of the evidence-based practices to boost students’ sense of belonging and improve academic outcomes. The webinar will feature a panel discussion with practitioners who have led change on their campuses.

The project concluded:

  • Faculty are essential and interested partners in efforts to improve the student experience and create institutional change;
  • With the right resources and institutional support, faculty can meaningfully improve students' experience;
  • Improved student experience predicts improved academic outcomes and engagement;

To support institutions in advancing their goals to promote equitable student experience and outcomes, the SEP has made the tools and resources developed through this project freely available in the new SEP Resources Hub. The hub includes: 

  • The First Day Toolkit, an online module and companion resources to revise syllabi to support student belonging on the first day of class; 
  • The Community of Practice Handbook, a guide to bringing faculty together to improve student experience; 
  • The Classroom Practice Guides, field-tested guides for faculty to implement evidence-based practices to support equity, belonging and growth throughout the term; 
  • Ascend, a data-driven professional learning program for instructors and administrators to understand how students are experiencing their learning environment and what they can do to make those experiences more equitable, more engaging, and more supportive of student success.

The project is supported by the Raikes Foundation, along with a partnership of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU); College Transition Collaborative (CTC, now part of Equity Accelerator); Education Counsel; Project for Education Research that Scales (PERTS); and Shift. University partners for this groundbreaking project are Colorado State University; University of Colorado Denver, University of New Mexico; University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Portland State University; and University of Toledo. 

For more information on the Student Experience Project, visit the project’s website at studentexperienceproject.org.

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