Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Academic Challenge


What does NSSE have to say about Academic Challenge? 

“Challenging intellectual and creative work is central to student learning and collegiate quality. Colleges and universities promote student learning by challenging and supporting them to engage in various forms of deep learning.  Four Engagement Indicators are part of this theme: Higher-Order Learning, Reflective & Integrative Learning, Learning Strategies, and Quantitative Reasoning.”


First-Year Students





What types of questions determine the Academic Challenge theme?

Academic Challenge is expressed on a 60-point scale (e.g., Very often=60, Often=40, Sometimes=20, and Never=0) using the following questions:

Higher-Order Learning
Percentage responding "Very much" or "Quite a bit" about how much coursework emphasized…
4b. Applying facts, theories, or methods to practical problems or new situations
4c. Analyzing an idea, experience, or line of reasoning in depth by examining its parts
4d. Evaluating a point of view, decision, or information source
4e. Forming a new idea or understanding from various pieces of information
Reflective & Integrative Learning
Percentage of students who responded that they "Very often" or "Often"…
2a. Combined ideas from different courses when completing assignments
2b. Connected your learning to societal problems or issues
2c. Included diverse perspectives (political, religious, racial/ethnic, gender, etc.) in course discussions or assignments
2d. Examined the strengths and weaknesses of your own views on a topic or issue
2e. Tried to better understand someone else's views by imagining how an issue looks from his or her perspective
2f. Learned something that changed the way you understand an issue or concept
2g. Connected ideas from your courses to your prior experiences and knowledge
Learning Strategies
Percentage of students who responded that they "Very often" or "Often"…
9a. Identified key information from reading assignments
9b. Reviewed your notes after class
9c. Summarized what you learned in class or from course materials
Quantitative Reasoning
Percentage of students who responded that they "Very often" or "Often"…
6a. Reached conclusions based on your own analysis of numerical information (numbers, graphs, statistics, etc.)
6b. Used numerical information to examine a real-world problem or issue (unemployment, climate change, public health, etc.)
6c. Evaluated what others have concluded from numerical information

Other NSSE Themes: