Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Schuyler Huck

Committee Members

John Lounsbury, Jennifer Richards, Gary Skolits


The purpose of this research was to explore the factorial validity of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), a survey widely used by institutions of higher education. Specifically, using data collected from first-year students and seniors at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UT), this research addressed three research questions. First, to what extent does the five-factor model of NSSE (i.e., the benchmark model) exhibit factorial validity? Second, to what extent is Pike’s (2006b) scalelet model of the NSSE factorially valid? Finally, is there a model that depicts the NSSE data better than the models consisting of benchmarks or scalelets? The participants of this study were first-year (n = 981) and senior (n = 944) students at UT who completed the online version of the NSSE in the spring of 2009. Using confirmatory factor analysis, results suggested poor model fit for both the benchmark model and Pike’s (2006b) scalelet model. Exploratory factor analysis with oblique rotation (Promax) resulted in a six-factor solution consisting of 27 items that accounted for approximately 39 percent of variance. The six-factor model failed, however, to exhibit sufficient model fit when confirmatory factor analysis was applied to a different data set (i.e., NSSE data collected in the spring of 2010). Overall, results suggest that much more validation research is needed for the National Survey of Student Engagement to ensure that its use among institutions of higher education is appropriate.

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