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Student Engagement Literature Review

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___________________________________________
Student Engagement Literature Review
Vicki Trowler
Department of Educational Research
University of Lancaster
___________________________________________
The Higher Education Academy, July 2010
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Table of Contents
___________________________________________ .............................................. 1
Student Engagement Literature Review ..................................................................... 1
Vicki Trowler ............................................................................................................... 1
Department of Educational Research ......................................................................... 1
University of Lancaster ............................................................................................... 1
___________________________________________ .............................................. 1
Table of Contents .................................................................................................... 2
Figures and Tables: ................................................................................................ 4
Introduction ............................................................................................................. 5
Criteria for Inclusion: ............................................................................................... 5
Understanding Engagement: .................................................................................. 7
Dimensions of Engagement: ............................................................................... 8
Behavioural Engagement: ................................................................................ 8
Emotional Engagement: ................................................................................... 8
Cognitive Engagement: .................................................................................... 8
Defining Student Engagement ................................................................................ 9
Depicting the Engagement Literature: ................................................................... 11
Foci of Engagement: ......................................................................................... 12
Axis 1: Individual Student Learning ................................................................ 12
Axis 2: Structure and Process ........................................................................ 13
Axis 3: Identity ............................................................................................... 13
Typologies of Engagement: .................................................................................. 14
Student Engagement Styles: ............................................................................. 15
Independent: .................................................................................................. 16
Collaborative: ................................................................................................. 16
Passive: ......................................................................................................... 16
Institutional Engagement Types: ....................................................................... 16
Diverse, but Interpersonally Fragmented ....................................................... 17
Homogeneous and Interpersonally Cohesive ................................................ 17
Intellectually Stimulating ................................................................................ 17
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Interpersonally Supportive ............................................................................. 17
High-Tech, Low-Touch ................................................................................... 17
Academically Challenging and Supportive ..................................................... 18
Collaborative .................................................................................................. 18
Student Representatives‟ Motivations ............................................................... 18
Responsibility ........................................................................................................ 19
Engagement With What? ...................................................................................... 20
Targets of Engagement: .................................................................................... 20
Specific student learning aspects / processes: .............................................. 20
Learning design: ............................................................................................ 21
Tools for online / classroom-based learning: ................................................. 22
Extra-curricular activities: ............................................................................... 22
Institutional governance: ................................................................................ 24
Engagement For What? ........................................................................................ 25
Reasons to Engage: .......................................................................................... 25
Engagement to improve learning: .................................................................. 25
Engagement to improve throughput rates and retention: ............................... 26
Engagement for equality / social justice: ........................................................ 26
Engagement for curricular relevance: ............................................................ 28
Engagement for institutional benefit: .............................................................. 28
Engagement as marketing: ............................................................................ 29
Economics of engagement: ........................................................................... 29
Engagement For Whom? ...................................................................................... 31
Beneficiaries of Engagement: ............................................................................ 31
Students - as individuals, and collectively: ..................................................... 31
Managers: ...................................................................................................... 31
The „engagement industry‟: ............................................................................ 32
The Higher Education System: ...................................................................... 33
Society: .......................................................................................................... 34
Effects of Engagement .......................................................................................... 34
Observed Effects of Engagement: ..................................................................... 34
Critical Success Factors for Engagement ............................................................. 37
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Critical Success Factors for engagement at different levels .............................. 38
Students: ........................................................................................................ 38
Staff: .............................................................................................................. 38
Local context: ................................................................................................. 39
Institutions: ..................................................................................................... 40
Educational ideology: ..................................................................................... 41
National policy: .............................................................................................. 43
Linking the levels: .......................................................................................... 44
Strategies for Engagement ................................................................................... 44
Institutional strategies: ....................................................................................... 45
Involving blended professionals: .................................................................... 45
Institutional engagement plans ...................................................................... 45
Individual staff interventions: ............................................................................. 49
Frameworks for Action ....................................................................................... 49
Conclusion: ........................................................................................................... 51
Glossary ................................................................................................................ 53
References: ........................................................................................................... 53
Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Examples of positive and negative engagement 9
Figure 1: Foci of Engagement represented in the literature 14
Figure 2: Student Engagement Styles (Coates 2007) 15
Figure 3: Motivation for engagement in student governance (Lizzio & Wilson, 2009) 18
Table 2: Conceptions of teaching as ideological and implications for engagement 43
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Introduction
While “Student Engagement” has enjoyed considerable attention in the literature
since the mid 1990s, its beginnings can substantively be seen a decade previously,
seminally in Astin‟s 1984 paper on student involvement. Following on from “The
Student Experience” and “Research-led Teaching” before it, “Student Engagement”
has become the latest focus of attention among those aiming to enhance learning
and teaching in higher education, headlining meeting agendas and theming
conferences in campuses around the world.
It is not difficult to understand why: a sound body of literature has established robust
correlations between student involvement in a subset of “educationally purposive
activities”, and positive outcomes of student success and development, including
satisfaction, persistence, academic achievement and social engagement (Astin,
1984, 1993; Berger & Milem, 1999; Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Goodsell, Maher &
Tinto, 1992; Kuh, 1995; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh & Whitt, 2005; Kuh & Vesper, 1997;
Pace, 1995; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991, 2005).
With Higher Education Institutions facing increasingly straitened economic
conditions, attracting and retaining students, satisfying and developing them and
graduating them to become successful, productive citizens matters more than ever.
Kuh (2003) demonstrates that what students bring to Higher Education, or where
they study, matters less to their success and development than what they do during
their time as a student. If student engagement can deliver on its promises, it could
hold the magic wand making all of this possible…
Criteria for Inclusion:
Our understanding of the term “student engagement”, based on definitions in the
literature and the discussion of the character of engagement and its alternatives,
summarised below, is as follows:
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Student engagement is the investment of time, effort and other relevant
resources by both students and their institutions intended to optimise the
student experience and enhance the learning outcomes and development of
students and the performance, and reputation of the institution.
The term “student engagement” has its historic roots in a body of work concerned
with student involvement, enjoying widespread currency particularly in North America
and Australasia, where it has been firmly entrenched through annual large scale
national surveys. The most prolific authors (in particular, George Kuh and Hamish
Coates) have affiliations with the organisations that have developed, implemented
and supported these national surveys of student engagement, located variously
within universities or private companies.
By way of contrast, the body of work produced in the UK which could be said to
address student engagement traces its roots back to other traditions, such as student
feedback, student representation and student approaches to learning, and is less
likely to be tagged as “student engagement” in the authors‟ keywords. Because of
this, the literature flagged as “student engagement” is heavily skewed towards the
North American / Australasian tradition, with the exception of an emerging body of
“grey” literature from the UK concerned mainly with small, single case studies.
A more holistic picture would thus require a full review of areas potentially related to
student engagement as defined above (including, but not restricted to, student
feedback, student representation, student approaches to learning, institutional
organisation, learning spaces, architectural design, and learning development) as
well as the literature flagged as “student engagement”. This, however, was beyond
the remit of this project owing to time and resource constraints, and would be an
enormous project. This review therefore confines its attention to those works flagged
as concerning student engagement by their authors rather than any publication which
substantively addresses issues under our definition.
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Understanding Engagement:
In seeking to understand what is meant by “engagement”, some authors have
considered its antithesis if a student is not engaged, then what are they?
Mann (2001, 7) contrasted engagement with alienation, proposing the engagement-
alienation dyad as a more useful framework to understand students‟ relationships to
their learning than the surface-strategic-deep triad (Marton & Saljo 1976), since both
“surface” and “strategic” approaches to learning are responses to alienation from the
content and the process of study.
Krause (2005, 4) lists “inertia, apathy, disillusionment or engagement in other
pursuits” as alternatives to engagement for the student. She describes (ibid., 7) this
as follows:
Physicists use the term „inertia‟ to describe the tendency of matter to retain its
state of rest or of uniform motion in a straight line. In the case of some
students…, inertia is a germane term to describe their attitude to university
and their role in it. In this context I favour the term „inertia‟ over
disengagement. The latter suggests an active detachment or separation,
whereas the former is more suggestive of doing nothing, which aptly depicts
the state of being for a group of students who do not actively pursue
opportunities to engage in their learning community. For some students, the
interlocking of individual and institutional interests, foals and aspirations never
occurs. They do not choose or see the need to waver from their familiar path
to engage with people, activities or opportunities in the learning community.
As well as the active, positive understanding of engagement typically found in the
literature, Krause (ibid., 9) identifies two other interpretations of the concept. The first
of these is the use analogous to “appointment”, as in the phrase “I have an
engagement at two o‟clock tomorrow afternoon”, suggesting that engagement with
their studies was simply something to slot into their calendars. The second
connotation was less neutral:
For some students, engagement with the university experience is like
engaging in a battle, a conflict. These are the students for whom the culture of
the university is foreign and at times alienating and uninviting.”
This view of a “dark”, hostile form of engagement stands in contrast to Mann‟s view
of alienation as the diametric opposite of engagement, a conceptual conflict which
we resolve through separating the passive response to alienation (“withdrawal”, or
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“apathy”) from the active (“conflict”), which is itself a form of engagement. We expand
on this view, below.
Dimensions of Engagement:
Engagement is more than involvement or participation it requires feelings and
sense-making as well as activity (see Harper & Quaye, 2009 (a), 5). Acting without
feeling engaged is just involvement or even compliance; feeling engaged without
acting is dissociation. Although focusing on engagement at a school level, Fredricks,
Blumenfeld & Paris (2004, 62-3), drawing on Bloom (1956), usefully identify three
dimensions to student engagement, as discussed below:
Behavioural Engagement:
Students who are behaviourally engaged would typically comply with behavioural
norms, such as attendance and involvement, and would demonstrate the absence of
disruptive or negative behaviour.
Emotional Engagement:
Students who engage emotionally would experience affective reactions such as
interest, enjoyment, or a sense of belonging.
Cognitive Engagement:
Cognitively engaged students would be invested in their learning, would seek to go
beyond the requirements, and would relish challenge.
We propose that each of these dimensions can have both a “positive” and a
“negative” pole, each of which represents a form of engagement, separated by a gulf
of non-engagement (withdrawal, or apathy). (The terms “positive” and “negative” are
used here not to denote value judgment, but rather to reflect the attitude implied in
much of the literature that compliance with expectations and norms indicates
internalisation and approval, and is thus seen to be productive, whereas behaviour
that challenges, confronts or rejects can be disruptive, delaying or obstructive, thus
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seen to be counter-productive. This is not to deny that, for individual academics,
evidence of critical engagement among their students is viewed as a positive
indicator of success.) Thus, one can engage either positively or negatively along
the behavioural, emotional or cognitive dimensions. This is illustrated in the table
below:
Positive
engagement
Non-engagement
Negative
engagement
Behavioural
Attends lectures,
participates with
enthusiasm
Skips lectures
without excuse
Boycotts, pickets or
disrupts lectures
Emotional
Interest
Boredom
Rejection
Cognitive
Meets or exceeds
assignment
requirements
Assignments late,
rushed or absent
Redefines
parameters for
assignments
Table 1: Examples of positive and negative engagement
It would be perfectly conceivable for a student to engage positively along one or
more dimensions while engaging negatively along one or more, or to engage
positively or negatively along one or more while not engaging along an/other/s. An
example might be a feminist student who attends all lectures and complies
positively with all behavioural engagement norms, while engaging cognitively in a
negative fashion by rejecting a “phallocentric” social science and submitting
assignments on a topic she defined according to her own epistemology.
Defining Student Engagement
Student engagement has been defined as …participation in educationally effective
practices, both inside and outside the classroom, which leads to a range of
measurable outcomes” (Kuh, Kinzie, Buckley, Bridges & Hayek, 2007), and as “the
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extent to which students are engaging in activities that higher education research has
shown to be linked with high-quality learning outcomes” (Krause & Coates 2008,
493) Similarly, Hu & Kuh (2001, 3) define engagement as “the quality of effort
students themselves devote to educationally purposeful activities that contribute
directly to desired outcomes”.
By way of contrast, others have defined engagement as “the process whereby
institutions and sector bodies make deliberate attempts to involve and empower
students in the process of shaping the learning experience” (HEFCE 2008) or as
“institutional and Student Union (SU) processes and practices, such as those relating
to student representation and student feedback, that seek to inform and enhance the
collective student learning experience, as distinct from specific teaching, learning and
assessment activities that are designed to enhance individual students‟ engagement
with their own learning” (Little, Locke Scesa & Williams 2009, 10)
Combining these two perspectives, Kuh (2009 (a), 683) has defined student
engagement as “the time and effort students devote to activities that are empirically
linked to desired outcomes of college and what institutions do to induce students to
participate in these activities (Kuh, 2001, 2003, 2009 [a]).” [emphasis in original]
Coates (2007, 122) describes engagement as “a broad construct intended to
encompass salient academic as well as certain non-academic aspects of the student
experience”, comprising the following:
Active & collaborative learning;
Participation in challenging academic activities;
Formative communication with academic staff;
Involvement in enriching educational experiences;
Feeling legitimated and supported by university learning communities.
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These five facets form the basis of the National Survey of Student Engagement
(NSSE), the annual survey conducted among public and private Higher Education
Institutions in the USA and Canada, and have been modified with the addition of a
sixth aspect into the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (AUSSE), which
defines student engagement as "students' involvement with activities and conditions
likely to generate high-quality learning" (Coates 2009), measured along 6
engagement scales:
academic challenge (extent to which expectations and assessments challenge
students to learn);
active learning (students' efforts to actively construct their knowledge);
student and staff interactions (level and nature of students' contact with
teaching staff);
enriching educational experiences (participation in broadening educational
activities);
supportive learning environment (feelings of legitimation within the university
community);
work integrated learning (integration of employment-focused work experience
into study). This factor is not present in the North American NSSE.
Depicting the Engagement Literature:
The literature on student engagement is a mixed bag. Aside from wide-ranging
understandings of the term covering anything from alienated involvement to active
identification there is considerable variation in the nature and type of the work. The
unit of analysis varies between individual student, minority group, or institutional
level, and the scale ranges from small, intimate studies to national and international
surveys. Levels of complexity range from uncritical, vague use of the term in an
evaluation study to complicated multiple regressions of interwoven, related aspects
seeking to understand correlation and robustness of terms and concepts.
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The literature often has a normative1 agenda, characterized by discussions of gains
and benefits while ignoring possible downsides, and at times a reductionist2
approach, such as suggesting that students with disabilities or ethnic minority
students share their opinions about architecture or artwork for the walls of buildings
(see Harper & Quaye 2009 (a), 9) While methodologically rigorous work in well-
regarded journals can be found in the literature, grey literature is disproportionately
present, in the form of project reports, unpublished conference papers, practitioner
presentations and discussion documents, as well as e-journals. There are a small
number of “big names” in the field such as George Kuh, Hamish Coates and Kerri-
Lee Krause, but because it is so wide there are others with particular specialisms
and a widely dispersed hinterland of authors.
Three distinct foci of student engagement can be identified in the literature, which
can be represented by way of a three-dimensional graph with each focus being
represented along one axis. Individual studies can be located at various points along
each of these axes, as is illustrated in the example below intended as an illustration
of a method of visualising individual examples from the literature, rather than
attempting to represent the entire body (in excess of 1 000 examples) of literature on
engagement.
Foci of Engagement:
Axis 1: Individual Student Learning
This axis represents a continuum along which individual works can be located
according to their concern, or perspective, on the individual student learning
dimension of student engagement. The overwhelming majority of literature surveyed
was expressly concerned with this focus. Along this axis, a paper which had no
1 reflecting the assumption that engagement is necessarily positive, and promoting this attitude
uncritically.
2 simplifying the complexity / range of variation, thereby minimising, obscuring or distorting the
concept under discussion.
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patent concern with individual student learning would be located at 0, with way points
along this axis including the following:
Student attention in learning
Student interest in learning
Student involvement in learning
Student (active) participation in learning
"Student-centredness"- student involvement in the design, delivery and
assessment of their learning
Axis 2: Structure and Process
The second axis focuses on issues of structure and process, including student
representation, students‟ role within governance, student feedback processes, and
other such matters. Location along this axis at the 0 point would denote that the work
had no patent concern with the collective structural or processal role of student
engagement, while way points along this axis would include
"Representation as consultation", such as tokenistic student membership of
committees or panels to obviate the need for formal consultation with students
Students in an observer role on committees
Students as representatives on committees (“delegate”” role)
Students as full members of committees (“trustee” role)
Integrated and articulated student representation at course, department,
faculty, SRC/SU or NUS level not ad hoc or piecemeal
Axis 3: Identity
The third axis focuses on issues of identity. This can range from concerns about how
to generate a sense of belonging for individual students, to concerns about how to
engage specific groups of students particularly those deemed “marginal” with
midpoints including issues concerning the role of representation in conferring identity.
Examples of way points along this axis include:
Engagement towards individual student "belonging"
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Identity attached to representation (module / course / discipline / institution /
"student" role)
Engagement of groups, such as "non-traditional" students.
Figure one illustrates these differences graphically. ISL represents individual student
learning, S&P is structure and processes while ID stands for identity. The
“examples” listed along the bottom are random examples taken from the literature
example 1 is a conference paper focusing on “student centred” individual student
learning, but silent on aspects of structure and process or on identity issues, while
example 10 is a paper which is concerned with individual student interest in (a
particular aspect of) learning among a particular subset of students.
Figure 1: Foci of Engagement represented in the literature
Typologies of Engagement:
Various authors have produced typologies of engagement that can assist in
understanding types of engagement.
12345678910
ISL
S&P
ID
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
Examples
Dimension
Subset of Literature
ISL
S&P
ID
15
Student Engagement Styles:
Coates (2007) proposed a typology of student engagement styles located along two
axes, social and academic. This is shown in the graphic below:
Figure 2: Student Engagement Styles (Coates 2007)
Intense:
"Students reporting an intense form of engagement are highly involved with their
university study… They tend to see teaching staff as approachable, and to see their
learning environment as responsive, supportive and challenging." (Coates 2007, 132-
3)
Collaborative
Intense
Passive
Independent
ACADEMIC
S
O
C
I
A
L
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Independent:
"An independent style of engagement is characterised by a more academically and
less socially orientated approach to studyStudents reporting an independent style
of study see themselves as participants in a supportive learning community. They
see staff as being approachable, as responsive to student needs, and as
encouraging and legitimating student reflection, and feedback. These students tend
to be less likely, however, to work collaboratively with other students within or beyond
class, or to be involved in enriching events and activities around campus." (Coates
2007, 133-4)
Collaborative:
"Students reporting a collaborative style of engagement tend to favour the social
aspects of university life and work, as opposed to the more purely cognitive or
individualistic forms of interaction… High levels of general collaborative engagement
reflect students feeling validated within their university communities, particularly by
participating in broad beyond-class talent development activities and interacting with
staff and other students." (Coates 2007, 134)
Passive:
"It is likely that students whose response styles indicate passive styles of
engagement rarely participate in the only or general activities and conditions linked to
productive learning." (Coates 2007, 134)
Coates cautions that these "styles of engagement refer to transient states rather than
student traits or types. It is not supposed, for instance, that these are enduring
qualities that are sustained within individuals over time or across contexts." (Coates
2007, 132)
Institutional Engagement Types:
Pike and Kuh (2005, 202) distilled seven types of engaging institutions from NSSE
results, based around six factors. No institution ranked universally high or low across
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all measures of engagement, suggesting that not only do institutions differ in how
they engage students, but that this may perhaps not be the result of conscious
strategy. Pike and Kuh's seven types are as follows:
Diverse, but Interpersonally Fragmented
Students at these colleges have numerous experiences with diversity and tend to
use technology, but do not view the institution as supporting their academic or social
needs nor are their peers viewed as supportive or encouraging. All in all, not a very
easy place to live and learn it seems.
Homogeneous and Interpersonally Cohesive
Students at these colleges have relatively few experiences with diversity, but view
the institution and their peers as supportive. These institutions are the mirror image
of the first engagement type.
Intellectually Stimulating
Students at these colleges are engaged in a variety of academic activities and have
a great deal of interaction with faculty inside and outside the classroom. They also
tend to engage in higher-order thinking and work with their peers on academic
matters (i.e., collaborative learning).
Interpersonally Supportive
Students attending these institutions report high frequency of diversity experiences
and view their peers and the campus as supportive of their efforts. Students also
have a reasonable amount of contact with faculty members inside and outside the
classroom.
High-Tech, Low-Touch
Information technology rules at these universities to the point of muting other types of
interactions. There is a sense of stark individualism as little collaboration occurs,
academic challenge is low, and the interpersonal environment is not a distinguishing
feature of the campus.
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Academically Challenging and Supportive
Faculty set high expectations and emphasize higher-order thinking in traditional
ways. Little active and collaborative learning is required. At the same time, students
support one another and view the campus as supportive. A generally friendly and
congenial place to be an undergraduate interested in learning.
Collaborative
Peers rely on and are generally supportive of one another for learning, mediated
somewhat by technology. Although there are few opportunities for experiences with
diversity, students have a reasonable amount of contact with faculty, who along with
other dimensions of the campus climate, are viewed as supportive.
Student Representatives’ Motivations
Lizzio & Wilson (2009, 73-4) identified four clusters of motivations given by students
for undertaking student representative roles, predicated along two intersecting axes
(motivation intrinsic or extrinsic) and focus (personal or systems). This gives rise to
four quadrants, as illustrated below:
Figure 3: Motivation for engagement in student governance (Lizzio & Wilson, 2009)
Systems
positioning
Compliance
with authority
Personal
development
Systems
advocacy
Extrinsic motivation
Intrinsic motivation
Personal
focus
Systems
Focus
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Responsibility
The definition of Student Engagement an author, manager or representative uses
often contains assumptions about who carries the responsibility for student
engagement, and thus who can - or should - be tasked with the accountability.
Our draft definition suggested that student engagement is the responsibility of both
students and their institutions, but various authors have suggested otherwise.
HEFCE's definition of engagement as "the process whereby institutions and sector
bodies make deliberate attempts to involve and empower students in the process of
shaping the learning experience” (HEFCE 2008, emphasis added) suggests that the
responsibility lies with institutions and sector bodies. Expanding on that view, the
CHERI study of student engagement was concerned with "institutional and Student
Union (SU) processes and practices, such as those relating to student representation
and student feedback, that seek to inform and enhance the collective student
learning experience, as distinct from specific teaching, learning and assessment
activities that are designed to enhance individual students‟ engagement with their
own learning” (Little, Locke, Scesa & Williams 2009, emphasis added), suggesting
that institutions and students collectively, through student unions, bear the
responsibility for engagement.
By contrast, Krause & Coates (2008, 493, emphasis added) argue that “student
engagement focuses on the extent to which students are engaging in activities that
higher education research has shown to be linked with high-quality learning
outcomes….", and Hu & Kuh (2001, 3, emphasis added) define engagement as "the
quality of effort students themselves devote to educationally purposeful activities that
20
contribute directly to desired outcomes”, placing the onus for engagement on the
individual student.
Kuh‟s later view, that “student engagement represents the time and effort students
devote to activities that are empirically linked to desired outcomes of college and
what institutions do to induce students to participate in these activities” (Kuh 2009
(a), 683), shifts the responsibility to both individual students and their institutions.
This view is neatly encapsulated in the extended quote from Coates (2005, 26)
below:
The concept of student engagement is based on the constructivist assumption
that learning is influenced by how an individual participates in educationally
purposeful activities. Learning is seen as a „joint proposition‟…, however,
which also depends on institutions and staff providing students with the
conditions, opportunities and expectations to become involved. However,
individual learners are ultimately the agents in discussions of engagement…
Engagement With What?
Many articles, conference papers and chapters on student engagement do not
contain explicit definitions of engagement, making the (erroneous) assumption that
their understanding is a shared, universal one. In addition, studies tend to measure
that which is measurable, leading to a diversity of unstated proxies for engagement
recurring in the literature, and a wide range of exactly what is being engaged with
under the mantle of "student engagement".
Targets of Engagement:
Specific student learning aspects / processes:
These works tend to be small-scale studies of particular aspects of the learning
process, looking at the effects of an intervention on student engagement. The unit of
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analysis is typically individual students, with outcomes most often measured either by
improved quality of work or by reported satisfaction of participants.
Examples of areas studied include action learning groups: “the paper focuses on the
interplay between participants‟ engagement with Action Learning Groups (ALGs),
their identities and the contexts in which they take place” (Rush & Balamoutsou,
2006); distance education: "This research examines students' engagement with
distance education offered by a traditional university and focuses particularly on their
induction experiences as distance learners," (Forrester et al. 2004, 1); and feedback:
"The quality of revision after feedback on error has also been examined and it has
been suggested that feedback on error can improved students' writing in the short-
term." (Hyland 2003, 219)
Learning design:
Student engagement in learning design most commonly occurs in the literature in the
form of small-scale studies of a particular teaching and learning intervention with a
particular group of students, often presented as a paper at a conference. An example
of this is a paper on assessment: "…students' engagement in developing criteria [for
assessment] should be regarded as an integrated part of the learning process."
(Haug 2006, 1)
By contrast, the use of student engagement data for learning design is typically cited
in papers reporting on large scale surveys of student engagement, as a potential by-
product of the data collection exercise, as in this example from Coates (2007, 136):
Teaching staff might take a specific approach to communicate with students,
for instance, where the students have reported collaborative online and
academic general forms of engagement… With knowledge of student
engagement characteristics, pedagogical approaches could be developed to
enhance the involvement of those students reporting more passive styles of
engagement.
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Tools for online / classroom-based learning:
Many papers have looked at particular tools and technologies to improve
engagement either in the classroom or online. These tend to be a mix of conference
papers and journal articles, usually with the course or module as the unit of analysis,
sometimes including a longitudinal or comparative element (if only discursively).
Examples include online / virtual learning environments (Dale & Lane 2007, 101):
The use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) has become a significant
feature of higher education, with the majority of institutions now incorporating
this technology into their wider learning and teaching strategies… Thus the
model of learner engagement has changed significantly in recent years, with
opportunities being created which offer more stimulating learner experiences.
and Audience Response Systems, commonly known as “clickers” (Graham et al.
2007, 235 - 7)
Criticism of the low student participation in traditional lecture formats in higher
education has spurred interest in understanding pedagogical implications of
[Audience Response Systems]… A common rationale for using ARSs has
been to engage students who are shy or reluctant to take the risk of public
failure.
Extra-curricular activities:
These works tend to take a normative position (“enriching educational experiences”
are “good”; paid work off-campus unrelated to study is “bad”).
Both the NSSE and AUSSE benchmark “enriching educational experiences” among
their “more powerful contributors to learning and personal development”, including:
“complementary learning opportunities in- and out-of-class augment academic
programs. Diversity experiences teach students valuable things about themselves an
others. Technology facilitates collaboration between peers and instructors.
Internships, community service, and senior capstone courses provide opportunities
to integrate and apply knowledge” (Kuh 2009 (a), 700-1)
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These extra-curricular activities can be campus-based, as described (Kuh 2009 (a)
698) below,
In addition to the high-impact activities identified [elsewhere]…, students do
other things during college that likely confer similar benefits - writing for the
student newspaper, working in an office or program on campus, participating
in an honors program, being a leader for a student organization or campus
committee, and playing intercollegiate athletics to name a few.
or located in the world beyond the campus, such as that described by Slocum &
Rhoads (2008, 102):
By focusing this study on UBA [University of Buenos Aires] faculty and
students actively engaged in anti-neoliberal social movements, we offer a
counter-narrative to the notion of the university as economic tool or academic
haven. This counter-narrative provides a vision of the university as a vehicle
for social transformation, whereby part of the university community is engaged
in something other than the pursuit of immediate economic returns. Rather,
they are directly involved in creating a vision of society based on more
democratic economic practices and a politically engaged citizenry.
Krause (2005, 8), commenting on the results of a study of student engagement
among first year Australasian students, noted that:
the evidence points to first year undergraduates who are occupied in various
pursuits beyond those of study. It seems that for an increasing number of
student workers, there is a danger that university engagement will be
interpreted as a noun rather than a verb [engagement as an appointment in a
diary rather than being engaged]. For the multitasking Y Generation students,
not to mention the X Generation or even baby boomers returning to study,
university study runs the risk of becoming another appointment or
engagement in the daily diary, along with paid work and a range of other
commitments beyond the campus. In this context, “engagement” takes on a
whole new meaning.
However, these findings are disputed by Kuh (2009 (a), 693-4) who argued that:
…although students who worked more hours tended to spend less time
preparing for class, working on or off campus did not seem to negatively affect
other forms of engagement. In fact, working students reported higher levels of
active and collaborative learning, perhaps because their jobs provided them
with opportunities to apply what they were learning… (T)hese studies suggest
that some of the shibboleths and conclusions about the negative effects of
work on student achievement from earlier studies may no longer hold. Indeed,
employment may provide opportunities for students to practice and become
more competent in collaboration and teamwork, skills that are needed to
function effectively in the twenty-first century work environment.
24
Institutional governance:
There was very little focus in the student engagement literature on student
engagement with institutional governance, and what there was tended to be found in
grey rather than peer-reviewed literature. Journal articles on the role of students in
institutional governance tend to be tagged with keywords other than “student
engagement”, suggesting a different discursive orientation.
Lizzio & Wilson (2009, 70) observe that:
…the value of actively involving students [in university governance] is
generally described from one of three perspectives: functional (how does it
benefit the university?), developmental (how does it benefit the student?) and
social (how does it benefit society?)
Kezar (2005, 2) comments that:
Students bring an essential perspective for creating a success-orientated
learning environment. No wonder that high-performing schools include
students in policymaking and on committees, task forces, and governance
groups, often in leadership roles.
…while Magolda (2005, 2) describes institutions where:
students are actively engaged in a variety of campus committees and provide
meaningful input to decision making groups. Large numbers of students take
responsibility for their learning and are involved in teaching and working with
other students in educationally purposeful ways as tutors and peer mentors in
campus residences and student organizations.
Here in the UK, Little, Locke, Scesa & Williams (2009, 32) describe how
in another university, the involvement of student union officers in 'away-days'
for governors is viewed as a further positive route for student voices to be
heard by those responsible for the overall governance of the institution.
However, student engagement in governance is not always unproblematic. Magolda
(op. cit., 1) describes how, in some universities,:
…in addition to… personal benefits, student leaders can contribute much to
the quality of the learning environment, the experiences of their peers, and the
larger campus community. Unfortunately, too often these potentially positive
effects are not fully realized. Student governments get sidetracked on trivial
25
issues. Social organizations inadvertently discourage participation by students
from diverse backgrounds. Service clubs touch in relevant ways only a small
fraction of those who need assistance. Established campus governance
structures ignore or limit active, meaningful involvement by students.
Engagement For What?
Just as the definition of student engagement is often assumed rather than stated,
and the focus on the targets of engagement varies widely in the literature, so too is
there a wide range of perspectives on the aims and purposes of engagement.
The discourse of engagement also tends to make manifest some issues and
functions of engagement, while obscuring other more latent functions that may seem
less noble.
Reasons to Engage:
Engagement to improve learning:
The majority of literature on student engagement is concerned directly or indirectly
with improving student learning. For Coates (2005, 26), this is fundamental:
The concept of student engagement is based on the constructivist assumption
that learning is influenced by how an individual participates in educationally
purposeful activities....In essence, therefore, student engagement is
concerned with the extent to which students are engaging in a range of
educational activities that research has shown as likely to lead to high quality
learning.
…while for Graham et al. (2007, 233-4), the centrality of improving student learning
through engagement is not a new-fangled idea introduced with the concept of
student engagement, but one with a long history:
The idea that students must be actively engaged in the learning process in
order for it to be effective is not new. The roots for active learning reach back
in the literature to John Dewey… A diverse body of educational research has
shown that academic achievement is positively influenced by the amount of
active participation in the learning process…
26
Improved outcomes of which student learning and development are key are the
ultimate goal of both (inter)national student surveys of student engagement, as
alluded to by Pascarella, Seifert & Blaich (2010, 20):
Our findings suggest that increases on institutional NSSE scours can be
considered as reasonable proxies for student growth and learning across a
range of important educational outcomes. Thus, if an institution can only afford
to focus on the “process” of undergraduate education as measured by the
NSSE benchmarks, this nevertheless seems likely to have implications for the
“product”.
Engagement to improve throughput rates and retention:
Student retention and throughput rates are of concern to all institutions, at least in
part because of the financial penalties attached to drop-out or unreasonably length of
time to complete. Since, as Kuh, Cruce, Shoup, Kinzie & Gonyea (2008, 555) say:
student engagement in educationally purposeful activities is positively related
to academic outcomes as represented by first-year student grades and by
persistence between first and second year of college,
…it makes sense for institutions to be concerned about student engagement, or its
absence, as Krause argues (2005, 8),
…we should be most concerned when students who should otherwise be
receiving targeted assistance in the form of student support, course advice
from academics, or peer support are not receiving this because they failed to
engage when the opportunities were available. These are the students for
whom inertia and failure to act may ultimately result in failure to persist and
succeed… (W)e should be concerned about the inertia apparent in some of
the first year students in the national study… because it is closely aligned with
student dissatisfaction and potential withdrawal from study.
Engagement for equality / social justice:
With the significance of the widening participation mission of universities given
impetus by the Dearing Report, focus has also shifted to “non-traditional” students of
various flavours (including mature students, part-time students, economically
disadvantaged students, students from ethnic minorities, students with disabilities
and students with family responsibilities) and how best to ensure that they have an
equal chance of success. Krause outlines this (2005, 3),
27
Mass higher education has meant that university campuses are now
characterised by diversity of all kinds, including diversity of ability, age groups
and educational backgrounds. Institutions are keen to know how they can
engage students from diverse backgrounds and with such diverse needs.
Related to this has been a concerted effort to enhance access to and monitor
the experience of under-represented and disadvantaged students in higher
education.
Kuh (2009 (a), 685) argues that:
…engagement has compensatory effects on grades and persistence for
students who most need a boost to performance because they are not
adequately prepared academically when they start college…
…while (ibid., 689)
…engaging in educationally purposeful activities helps to level the playing
field, especially for students from low-income family backgrounds and others
who have been historically underserved.
According to Harper & Quaye (2009 (a), 3):
We are persuaded by a large volume of empirical evidence that confirms that
strategizing ways to increase the engagement of various student populations,
especially those for whom engagement is known to be problematic, is a
worthwhile endeavour. The gains and outcomes are too robust to leave to
chance, and social justice is unlikely to ensue if some students come to enjoy
the beneficial byproducts of engagement but others do not.
Krause (2005, 10) highlights that some subgroups of students (such as 20-24 year
olds, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and foreign students)
perceive their success at engagement with the university negatively:
Regardless of the explanations for these findings, they nevertheless point to
the need to challenge old paradigms which depict engagement solely in
positive terms. The international subgroup is a case in point. As a group,
international students score high on the usual measures of engagement. They
spend more time on campus and in class than their domestic peers. They
engage in online study far more than domestic students and devote relatively
little time to paid employment. Nevertheless, they are having difficulty
engaging with study and learning and are feeling overwhelmed by all they
have to do. The finding points to the need for multiple indicators of
engagement and a theorizing of the concept which allows for multiple
perspectives. To understand engagement is to understand that for some it is a
battle when they encounter teaching practices which are foreign to them,
procedures which are difficult to understand, and a „language‟ which is alien.
Some students actively engage with the battle and lose what do we do for
them?
28
While Krause‟s view may at first reading appear critical of the limitations of
engagement for these marginalised groups of students, on closer inspection it is
apparent that she is simply calling for an expansion of the range of measures, to pick
up other facets not currently reported on (such as the “coping and comprehension”
scale which identified these struggling groups), and a broader theorising of the
concept to allow for these multiple perspectives.
Engagement for curricular relevance:
The engagement of students in learning design, as discussed earlier, can lead to
students perceiving improvements in curricular relevance. However, improvements in
curricular relevance can also be attained through implementation of strategies
informed by student engagement data, such as that illustrated by NSSE (2009 (b),
10)
…Viterbo faculty members have increased the use of active learning
strategies and technologies to create a learner-centered classroom… NSSE
results from both 2006 and 2007 reinforce the effectiveness of active learning
strategies at Viterbo - students' responses indicated that they learn more
when they are intensely involved in their education, asked to think about what
they are learning in different settings, and collaborate with faculty and other
students on projects.
Engagement for institutional benefit:
Institutional benefit from student engagement can be both reputational and financial.
Coates (2005, 32) argues that student engagement data have a valuable role to play
in quality assurance, providing useful information for higher education managers:
Student engagement data provides a means for determining the productivity of
university education. Johnstone (1993) argued that the most significant and
sustainable productivity advances in education will result from enhancing
learning outputs rather than through further manipulation of structural factors
or cost side productivity… (T)imely data on student engagement could be
used diagnostically to fine tune the management of student learning and also
to provide information for making summative judgements about such
productivity.
Since "student engagement comes close to providing necessary and sufficient
information about student learning." (Coates 2005, 32), engagement is a reliable
29
proxy for learning; actual learning is a good indicator of quality; hence, engagement
data are useful in determining quality. This is supported by Kuh (2009 (a), 685):
What the institution does to foster student engagement can be thought of as a
margin of educational quality - sometimes called value added - and something
a college or university can directly influence to some degree.
…and Pascarella, Seifert & Blaich (2010, 21):
The NSSE benchmark scales were designed specifically to provide another
gauge of academic quality students‟ participation in academic and non-
academic experiences that lead to learning… Since your findings suggest the
dimension of the undergraduate experience measured by NSSE benchmarks
are correlated with important educational outcomes, they arguably constitute a
more valid conception of quality in undergraduate education than U.S. News‟s
[ranking scale].
A more immediate financial benefit can be that described by Markwell (2007, 15):
…at a time when universities and colleges are increasingly focused on the
importance of outreach to alumni and other potential friends of the institution
for the purpose of greatly increasing philanthropic support for higher
education, it is becoming more widely recognised, I think, that how engaged
students are and feel themselves to be during their student years will have a
great bearing on how connected and supportive towards the institution they
are likely to be in later years. One form of student engagement which some
institutions have found works well is involving students in their alumni outreach
and fundraising activities for example, students thanking donors, in letters or
phone calls, for their donations to the institution. This may be thought of as a
particular form of involvement of students in community service activities,
something I think we should and will see happening more frequently.
Engagement as marketing:
Since, as argued above, an engaging university is a quality university, it would make
sense for universities to use their success at engaging students as a marketing
device. And they do (NSSE 2009 (b), 13):
For decades, Hastings College (HC) has been telling potential students that its
students are engaged, they learn, and they are satisfied. Faculty and
administrators at the institution felt confident in this statement based on
personal feedback from students but, until recently, there had been no
evidence to support their assertions.
Economics of engagement:
As noted by Ryan (2005, 236)
30
Concurrent with the rising interest in student engagement, resource
management and the effective use of financial resources represent another
broad area of concern for policymakers, the public, and college administrators.
Data… suggests real increases in expenditures in recent years at colleges
and universities, most notably in the institutional support (administrative)
category…. With heightened concerns about college costs, access, and the
impact of these pressures on students and society, a closer examination of the
potential links between institutional expenditures and student engagement
represents an opportunity to enhance our understanding of the relationship
between institutional characteristics and student engagement.
In the current economic climate, concerns about “value for money” both from public
funding bodies and from fee-paying students are more pressing than ever. Yet very
few studies have been conducted to uncover possible links between institutional
expenditure and student engagement, and those few have produced conflicting
results.
Ryan (2005, 245) found that “administrative expenditures had a negative and
significant relationship with student engagement” in a study limited by a small, non-
randomised sample, inconsistently reported financial data and a limited subset of
engagement variables.
Pike, Smart, Kuh & Hayek (2006, 868) found “very complex” relationships between
expenditure and student engagement, contingent on a number of factors including
institutional control (public vs private institutions), students‟ seniority, and type of
engagement measure, though:
…the findings from this study seem to suggest that… instruction, followed
closely by academic [including library, academic computing, academic
administration, staff development and curriculum development] and
institutional support [including general administration, executive planning, legal
and fiscal operations, public relations and development], have the strongest
positive relationships with the five NSSE measures of student engagement
and educational effectiveness.
Elsewhere, Kuh (2009 (a), 695) calls for studies to examine the cost-benefit ratios of
“high-impact” practices, taking into account the probability of enhanced persistence
and success of students who participate in theses activities:
The additional revenues realised from tuition and other fees from students
who stain in school could offset what may be marginally higher costs of some
of these practices, such as making available a small writing- or inquiry-
intensive first-year seminar for every student and subsidising study away
experiences. Knowing the costs of high-impact practices and student success
interventions such as mentoring programs and early warning systems could
31
help institutional decision makers to decide whether to reallocate resources
and invest in them.
Engagement For Whom?
The assumed or stated definition of engagement often varies with understandings of
targets of engagement and reasons for engagement, as well as intended
beneficiaries of engagement.
Beneficiaries of Engagement:
Students - as individuals, and collectively:
Students are the obvious beneficiaries of engagement, by design as summarised
by Kuh (2009 (a), 698):
[E]ngagement increases the odds that any student - educational and social
background notwithstanding - will attain his or her educational and personal
objectives, acquire the skills and competencies demanded by the challenges
of the twenty-first century, and enjoy the intellectual and monetary advantages
associated with the completion of the baccalaureate degree.
However, individual students are not the only beneficiaries of engagement. Where
students engage, a climate of cooperation and collaboration can be created, leading
to a greater voice for students generally, as illustrated by Magolda (2005, 2):
For example, the University of Kansas expects students to have a voice in
campus governance. Indeed, the University requires that all policy committees
(with the exception of personnel committees) have a minimum of twenty
percent of their members be students. As one student senate officer
commented, “Students are on an equal playing field with faculty and others in
terms of “governance.” Clearly, students and their “voices” are very important
at the University.
Managers:
Information about student engagement can be a useful tool for managers, as
suggested by Coates (2010, 13):
By monitoring student engagement and outcomes, institutions can identify
areas of good practice as well as those areas in need of improvement.
Institutions can also allocate expensive teaching and support resources in a
strategic fashion, and report the results of such actions in ways that
demonstrate the efficacy of the feedback cycle.
…and echoed by Kuh (2009 (a), 685):
32
The argument was that credible, actionable information about how students
spent their time and what institutions emphasized in terms of student
performance could tell an accurate comprehensive story of students‟
educational experiences and be a powerful lever for institutional improvement.
Elsewhere, Coates (2005, 32) has noted that:
[d]ata on student engagement has the advantage of providing information on
what students are actually doing. While this may appear self-evident, it has a
broader significance for the management of institutions, students and
academic programmes. Rather than work from assumptions or partial
anecdotal reports about student activities, institutions can make decisions
based on more objective information. Information about student activities
would provide institutions with valuable information for marketing and
recruitment and help them become more responsive to student learning
needs. Only with accurate and reliable information on what students are
actually doing can institutions move beyond taking student activities for
granted.
…and Krause and Coates (2008, 495) observe that:
…[engagement] data have the potential to inform understanding of many
aspects of university life, such as student affairs, pedagogical quality,
recruitment and selection, attrition and retention, equity, and student learning
processes.
Addressing specifically student engagement in institutional governance, Lizzio &
Wilson (2009, 70) note that there are functional benefits (to the university):
Sabin and Daniels (2001), writing from a functional perspective, identify
enhanced accountability (in terms of transparency of policy and decisions),
evident deliberation (in terms of appropriate consideration of stakeholder
views) and organisational learning (in terms of learning from experience) as
benefits of participative processes. In this regard, there is little doubt that
students have access to experiences and information that can improve the
quality and accountability of decision making.
These benefits can extend to institutional culture too, as Pascarella, Seifert & Blaich
(2010, 21) argue:
In a dynamic context grounded in an institutions commitment to improvement,
an institutional culture may arise that continuously strives to engage students
in effective educational practices and experiences, thereby increasing the
likelihood of improved institutional effectiveness and increased student
learning and development.
The ‘engagement industry’:
The “engagement industry” exists metaphorically in the form of academics who may
spot it as a career opportunity by positioning themselves as having expertise in an
33
arena which is popular, they can signal that “this is the most important thing in
education, and I‟m the expert”. Such academics or consultants, should they step
outside the formal constraints of academia represent only one incarnation of the
“industry”; those organisations which have been spawned to develop, implement and
support the administration of national and international surveys of student
engagement are a further manifestation; while another is the commercial industry
represented by entities such as http://www.yawnbuster.com/ which promises to
"Transform Classroom Activities Into Engaging Interactive Sessions”, in all their
capitalised splendour!
The Higher Education System:
The focus on engagement has benefited the HE system both through making data
available for measuring and monitoring, and also through the use of this data (and
the applications of the principles of engagement, more generally) for continuous
improvement across the sector, as Krause illustrates (2005, 3-4):
Engagement has become a pivotal focus of attention as institutions locate
themselves in an increasingly marketised and competitive higher education
environment. Meanwhile, the quality assurance mandate has drawn attention
to the need for universities to demonstrate that they add value and enhance
the quality of the student experience through monitoring and evaluation cycles
of continuous improvement. The focus on engagement has also been
provoked by growing awareness of a new Y Generation of university
enrolees… who enter higher education with a unique mindset and
expectations which distinguish them from their baby-boomer and X Generation
predecessors. Given this complex interplay of factors, researchers,
practitioners, administrators and policy makers have come to recognise the
imperative to devise ways of better understanding, monitoring and promoting
student engagement in their institutions.
While the literature has little to say about the benefits to individual academics, rather
than the sector as a whole, implied (if unstated) benefits are evident from the
outcomes of engagement (see discussion of “Effects”, below). These would include
greater connectedness between academics and their students (Bensimon 2009, xxii
xxiii); increased interaction on substantive matters with their students (Kuh 2009
(a), 684); and sharing values and approaches to learning with their students (Rush
34
and Balamoutsou 2006, 4) in addition to the increased job satisfaction of teaching
responsive students.
Society:
Lizzio & Wilson (2009, 70), commenting on the value of student participation in
university governance, note that there are social (as well as functional and
developmental) benefits to this engagement:
Student participation [in university governance] can also be understood as part
of the emerging and related discourses of education for democracy (Teune
2001) and „universities as sites of citizenship‟ (Colby et al. 2003)... Associated
with this discourse is an underlying concern that a decline in civic participation
generally is undermining democratic institutions…. It is argued that, if
universities expect students to develop the skills and attitudes for effective
citizenship, then it is incumbent upon them to exemplify and support these
through policies and practices.
Thus, student engagement in university governance both exposes students to
democratic practice and empowers them to participate as informed citizens, and
bolsters democracy by providing further incarnations of democracy in action.
Effects of Engagement
Definitions of engagement often contain stated or unstated assumptions about aims
and intended outcomes ("Engagement For What") or beneficiaries ("Engagement For
Whom"), but these may vary from the actual observed effects of engagement on
students, institutions and the Higher Education sector more broadly. The discussion
below focuses on actual observed effects, rather than the intended outcomes and
beneficiaries discussed in the preceding sections.
Observed Effects of Engagement:
Engagement allows students to develop in important ways, as noted by Bensimon
(2009, xxii xxiii):
…productive engagement is an important means by which students develop
feelings about their peers, professors, and institutions that give them a sense
of connectedness, affiliation, and belonging, while simultaneously offering rich
opportunities for learning and development.
…and Kuh (2009 (a), 684):
35
…students gained more from their studies and other aspects of the college
experience when they devoted more time and energy to certain tasks that
required more effort than others - studying, interacting with their peers and
teachers about substantive matters, applying their learning to concrete
situations and tasks in different contexts, and so forth.
…while Lizzio & Wilson (2009, 81) observed that:
[s]tudents reported, on average, moderate to high levels of learning and
development as a result of undertaking the representative role…The types of
personal benefits they described generally reflected their motivations for
originally accepting the role (i.e. developing skills and confidence, making
contacts, helping fellow students). This suggests that the representative role is
potentially a rich context for learning across a number of different skill and
attitudinal domains.
Effects of engagement listed by Rush and Balamoutsou (2006, 4) include that:
Engaged students… share the values and approaches to learning of their
lecturers; spend time and energy on educationally meaningful tasks; learn with
others inside and outside the classroom; actively explore ideas confidently
with others; and learn to value perspectives other than their own. When
students are part of a learning community… they are: positive about their
identity as a member of a group; focused on learning; ask questions in class;
feel comfortable contributing to class discussions; spend time on campus;
have made a few friends; and are motivated in some extra curricular activity.
Beyond these observations, robust relationships have been established over time
between students‟ investment of time, effort and interest in a range of educationally-
orientated activities, and favourable outcomes such as increased performance,
persistence and satisfaction.
Following Astin‟s 1984 paper which dealt with student involvement in their own
learning, the concept that was subsequently expanded to incorporate earlier aspects
such as “quality of effort” (Pace 1980, 1984) and “time-on-task” (Merwin 1969), with
later work (Pace 1990, Chickering & Gamson 1987) on effective practices in
teaching and learning, being incorporated into the concept which emerged as
“student engagement” (Kuh et al. 1991, 1997; Kuh 2004, 2008 (a); Pascarella &
Terenzini 1991, 2005; Ewell & Jones 1996; Pace 1995; Tinto 1993; Coates 2006).
Specific aspects of engagement, such as involvement, time on task, and quality of
effort, have repeatedly been linked to positive outcomes (see Astin 1994, 1999;
36
Braxton, Milem & Sullivan 2000; Goodsell, Maher & Tinto 1992; Feldman &
Newcomb 1969; Kuh 1995; Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh & Whitt 2005; Kuh, Pace & Vesper
1997; Kuh, Whitt & Strange 1989; LaNasa, Cabrera & Trangsrud 2009; Pace 1990,
1995; Pascarella 1985; Pascarella & Terenzini 1991, 2005; Pike 2006(a), 2006(b);
Tinto 1987, 1993). Chickering & Gamson (1987) summarised the evidence into
seven effective practices in undergraduate teaching & learning, viz. student-staff
contact, active learning, prompt feedback, time on task, high expectations, respect
for diverse learning styles, and cooperation among students.
Academic challenge is central to the engagement construct (NSSE 2002, 10) and
some disciplines are experienced as more challenging than others (see Pascarella
participating in a learning 2001, Coates & Ainley 2007; Marks & Coates 2007).
Interacting with staff has been shown to have a powerful impact on learning
(Pascarella & Terenzini 1991, 2005; Astin 1993; Kuh & Hu 2001; Hausmann et al.
2007; Cuseo 2007) especially when it takes place outside of the classroom and
responds to individual student needs (Kuh & Hu 2001; Chickering & Reisser 1993;
Pascarella & Terenzini 1991). Participation in extra-curricular activities has also been
shown to be positively correlated to improved outcomes (Pascarella & Terenzini
1991; McInnis et al. 2001, 2005; Scott 2006).
Living on campus has been positively correlated to engagement (Chickering 1975;
Pike & Kuh 2005; Terenzini et al. 1996) and community has been linked to
substantial increases in engagement (Indiana University Center for Postsecondary
Research 2002; Pike 1999; Pike et al. 1997; Zhao & Ku 2004). Interactions with
diverse peers (in and out of the classroom) has been positively correlated with a
range of positive outcomes, both personal and social (antonio et al. 2004; Chang,
Astin & Kim 2004; Chang, Denson, Saenz & Misa 2006; Gurin, Dey, Hurtado & Gurin
2002; Harper & antonio 2008; Hu & Kuh 2003; Pascarella, Edison, Nora, Hagedorn &
Terenzini 1996; Villalpando 2002).
Additionally, studies have consistently shown correlations between engagement and
improvements in specific desirable outcomes, including general abilities and critical
37
thinking (Endo & Harpel 1982; Gellin 2003; Kuh 2003; Kuh, Hu & Vesper 1997;
Pascarella, Duby, Terenzini & Iverson 1983; Pascarella et al. 1996; Pike 1999, 2000;
Pike & Killian 2001; Pike, Kuh & Gonyea 2003; Shulman 2002; Terenzini, Pascarella
& Bliming 1996); practical competence and skills transferability (Kuh 1993, 1995);
cognitive development (Anaya 1996; Astin 1993; Baxter Magolda 1992; Kuh 1993,
1995; Pascarella, Seifert & Blaich 2009; Pascarella & Terenzini 2005); self-esteem,
psychosocial development, productive racial and gender identity formation (Bandura,
Peluso, Ortman & Millard 2000; Chickering & Reisser 1993 Evans, Forney & Guido-
DiBrito 1998; Harper 2004; Harper & Quaye 2007; Torres, Howard-Hamilton &
Cooper 2003); moral & ethical development (Evans 1987; Jones & Watt, 1999;
Liddell & Davis 1996; Rest 1993); student satisfaction (Kuh & Vesper 1997; Kuh et
al. 2005; Kuh et al. 2007); accrual of social capital (Harper 2008); improved grades
(Astin 1977, 1993; Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research 2002;
Pike, Schroeder & Berry 1997; Tross, Harper Osher & Kneidinger 2000); and
persistence (Astin 1975, 1985 1993; Bean 2005; Berger & Milem 1999; Braxton,
Milem & Sullivan 2000; Bridges, Cambridge, Kuh & Leegwater 2005; Milem & Berger
1997; Pascarella & Terenzini 2005; Peltier, Laden & Matranga 1999: Pike et al. 1997;
Stage & Hossler 2000; Swail, Redd & Perna 2003; Tinto 1993, 2000, 2005).
Critical Success Factors for Engagement
Expecting student engagement to happen of its own accord has been described
(Chang, Chang & Ledesma 2005, 10-11) as „magical thinking3‟: it doesn‟t happen by
magic:
[This] rationale provides no guidance for campuses on assembling the
appropriate means to create environments conducive to realization of the
benefits of diversity or on employing the methods necessary to facilitate the
educational process to achieve those benefits.
3 Note our Frameworks for Action designed to address „magical thinking‟
38
Indeed, Strange and Banning (2001, 201) call for campuses that are “intentionally
designed to offer opportunities, incentives, and reinforcements for growth and
development”.
Critical Success Factors for engagement at different levels
This section outlines the pre-requisites for student engagement at different levels, as
described by the literature on student engagement. While a substantive body of
literature details critical success factors on related issues, such as the successful
use of student feedback, that falls outside of the scope of this Literature Review (see
“Criteria for Inclusion”, above).
Students:
For students to reap the benefits of engagement, argues Bensimon (2009, xxiii), they
“…must invest time and effort into academic activities and practices…that correlate
highly with positive educational outcomes…”. The logic is explained by Kuh (2003,
25):
The engagement premise is deceptively simple, even self-evident: The more
students study a subject, the more they learn about it. Likewise, the more
students practice and get feedback on their writing, analyzing, or problem
solving, the more adept they become. The very act of being engage3d also
adds to the foundation of skills and dispositions that is essential to live a
productive, satisfying life after college. That is, students who are involved in
educationally productive activities in college are developing habits of the mind
and heart that enlarge their capacity for continuous learning and personal
development.
Coates (2005, 27) outlines the necessary conditions from students for the realisation
of the benefits of engagement:
Students also need to interact with these [optimal] conditions and activities in
ways that will lead to productive learning. Students need to expend a certain
„quality of effort‟…, to challenge themselves to learn, to interact with new ideas
and practices and to practice the communication, organisational and reflective
skills that should help them learn and will form an important part of what they
take from university education.
Staff:
Umbach and Wawrzynski 92005, 173) conclude from their study that academic staff
have a role to play in student engagement:
39
Our findings suggest that faculty do matter. The educational context created
by faculty behaviours and attitudes has a dramatic effect on student learning
and engagement. Institutions where faculty create an environment that
emphasizes effective educational practices have students who are active
participants in their learning and perceive greater gains from their
undergraduate experience.
While students have responsibilities for their own engagement, there are important
ways in which staff can contribute to the facilitation (or conversely to the
frustration!) of engagement. These can range from Coates‟s (2005, 26) suggestion of
academic staff “making themselves available for consultation outside class time” to
Hu & Kuh‟s (2002, 570) suggestion that “faculty members can make concrete links
between what students are reading and discussing and other aspects of their lives”,
to Markwell‟s (2007, 18) suggestions of:
Lecturers finding ways to encourage interaction in large classes as well as in
small, and encouraging, even requiring, students to study in groups, and using
feedback to encourage engagement; academics finding ways to urge and to
stimulate students to work to master thoroughly the material they are studying
to understand fundamental principles, and not simply to memorise the
details; academics finding ways that will engage and excite students through
connecting their research with their teaching; staff taking part in the wider
student life of the university, supporting extracurricular activities and so on…
This menas, of course, that student engagement requires staff engagement.
Yet, as Hu & Kuh (2002, 570-1) note, other staff can also have a role to play:
In addition, faculty members, academic administrators, and student affairs
professionals can influence the extent to which students perceive that the
institutional environment values scholarship and intellectual activity by
communicating high expectations.
The role such staff can play is picked up elsewhere by Kuh (2009 (a), 697):
At high performing colleges and universities, student affairs staff collaborate
with others to periodically review data about the effectiveness of policies and
practices with an eye towards insuring that what is enacted is of acceptable
quality and consistent with the institutions espoused priorities and values…
Local context:
Engagement issues may vary by discipline, and so engagement plans may need to
be nuanced. In their study of the subject engagement of UK sociology students, Jary
& Lebeau (2009, 697) found a “greater commonality of experience and outcome
across institutions than the extreme polarisation of institutional experiences and
40
outcomes sometimes suggest”, with a “stronger… disciplinary framing of the
curriculum,” and later (ibid., 711) note that:
…we would expect to find stronger personal projects in business studies and
biosciences and somewhat greater integration for bioscience and subjects
where class contact hours are high.
Local variation can also occur at the programme level, particularly where
implementation effectiveness may vary, as discussed by Kuh (2009 (a), 697):
Another critical step is making sure the programs that research shows to be…
high impact… are actually having the desired effects. One of the reasons so
many college impact studies show equivocal or mixed findings is because the
program or practice being evaluated was not implemented effectively.
Institutions:
If students are to take advantage of engagement opportunities, institutions are
required to provide them, as noted by Coates (2005, 26-7):
…institutions… need to provide students with the appropriate resources and
opportunities to make possible and promote specific kinds of interactions. This
may involve… campus libraries having sufficient space for students to work
collaboratively, curricula and assessment that compel certain standards of
performance or activities around campus that prompt students to reflect on the
ethics and practices of their learning.
This is supported by Kuh et al. (2007, 44):
The second component of student engagement is how the institution deploys
its resources and organizes the curriculum, other learning opportunities and
support services to induce students to participate in activities that lead to the
experiences and desired outcomes such as persistence, satisfaction, learning
and graduation.
Pike & Kuh (2005, 187) argue that:
The most important institutional factors are thought to be the policies and
practices adopted by institutions to increase student engagement…
[Engaging] institutions were marked by an unshakeable focus on student
learning emphasized in their missions and operating philosophies. They also
adapted their physical campus properties and took advantage of the
surrounding environment in ways that enriched students‟ learning
opportunities. Put another way, aspects of the institutional cultures appeared
to explain more of what mattered to student success at these schools than
variables typically examined in studies of institutional and student
performance.
41
An example of this is Kuh et al.‟s (1991, 369) claim that “Involving Colleges are
committed to pluralism in all its forms”, a view supported by Markwell‟s (2007, 19)
reminder that:
…we need always to be mindful of the importance of creating an inclusive
environment one in which women and men of all cultural, national, socio-
economic and other backgrounds will, so far as possible, feel able to engage
on equal terms.
The institution‟s duty to provide an engaging environment is a moral, rather than just
an instrumental, one, as Kuh (2009(b), 316) argues:
…it behooves faculty and staff to create opportunities for all students to
participate in what research from NSSE and other quarters indicate are “high
impact” practices… These include learning communities, student-faculty
research, service learning, internships, study abroad, and capstone seminars
or other culminating experiences.
This passion is supported by Markwell (2007, 15), who argues that:
…we need to put in front of students and staff alike a vision of student and
staff engagement within a wider vision of an academic community…
Presenting a compelling and exciting vision of what university life can be like,
and of the great benefits that flow from it may not be sufficient but it is surely
necessary for making substantial progress.
Providing an engaging environment is not just the wise thing to do, they claim it is
also the right thing to do.
Educational ideology:
As noted by Coates (2005, 26):
The concept of student engagement is based on the constructivist assumption
that learning is influenced by how an individual participates in educationally
purposeful activities.
While constructivism is a theory (or philosophy) of learning, it is usually held as part
of a broader set of understandings about the nature of teaching and learning, of
students, and of the purposes of higher education generally. Differing orientations to
such issues are best described as educational ideologies, which we define as
alternative frameworks of theories, beliefs and values about the nature, distribution
and ordering of educational arrangements at both national and local levels which
provide a guide and justification for behaviour in educational contexts. The provide
42
discourses and conceptual tools which individuals draw on in thinking, talking and
practising.
Differing educational ideologies have implications for the way in which student
engagement was understood and implemented or emphasized in an institution, as
well as its significance and purpose, as illustrated in the table below (adapted from
Trowler and Wareham, 2008, p36, with the categorisation of ideologies drawn from
Trowler‟s literature review (1998):
Ideological
perspective
Educational
Ideology in relation
to teaching
Role of Students
Implications for
Engagement
Traditionalism
Teaching is about
transmitting
information,
induction into the
discipline.
Information
transfer/teacher-
focused approach
Learning through
absorbing
information
provided to them.
Students need to be
interested in the
content. Students
participate through
attending lectures
and complying with
behavioural norms.
Progressivism
Teaching is about
developing
students‟ minds so
they can better
appreciate the
world, about making
them autonomous.
Learning through
co-construction of
knowledge
Students need to be
engaged in, and
with, learning both
in and out of the
classroom.
43
Conceptual
change/student-
focused approach
Social
Reconstructionism
Teaching is about
empowering
students to see the
inequities and
structured nature of
advantage and
disadvantage in the
world, and to
change it.
Learning through
questioning,
challenging and
“speaking truth to
power”, and
effecting change.
Students need to be
engaged with the
world beyond the
classroom,
challenging and
changing structural
inequity.
Enterprise
Teaching is about
giving students the
skills to thrive in
their careers and to
contribute to the
economy.
Learning through
application of
knowledge across
disciplinary
boundaries to real-
life practical
problems
Students need to be
engaged in work-
based / vocational
learning
Table 2: Conceptions of teaching as ideological and implications for engagement
National policy:
While none of the literature specifically addressed the issue of national policy, policy
levers such as funding frameworks, systemic assessment schemes and quality
frameworks could have a significant impact on encouraging, or discouraging, an
emphasis on student engagement at an institutional level. For example, policy which
framed “quality” in terms of learning rather than teaching would require institutions to
focus on what students are actually doing, rather than on what the institutions are
providing for them to do or not do, as they wish; while funding being contingent on
engagement rather than cruder measures of throughput rates and retention would
44
allow funders a more nuanced view of value for money than the binary “graduated”
vs “dropped out” model.
Linking the levels:
As argued above, engagement is not the necessary outcome of interventions at any
one level alone; rather, it relies on the contributions and efforts of players at many
levels. Harper & Quaye (2009 (a), 6) argue that both students and institutions must
be involved:
students should not be chiefly responsible for engaging themselves.... but
instead administrators and educators must foster the conditions that enable
diverse populations of students to be engaged.
An example is cited (Harper & Quaye 2009 (a), 6) of staff neglecting to incorporate
multicultural perspectives into their discussions and assigned materials, thus placing
the onus on students from minority groups to find materials that resonate with their
perspectives, or to raise issues related to race in class discussions.
Strategies for Engagement
Strategies for engagement hinge on one‟s understanding and definition of
engagement, as well as notions of what would constitute appropriate targets, goals
and beneficiaries for engagement strategies. The Effects and effectiveness of these
strategies are impacted by the critical success factors outlined above. A useful
collection of strategy guides directed at various roleplayers, distilled from “best
practice” at participating colleges and informed by NSSE data can be found in the
NSSE page at :
http://nsse.iub.edu/institute/index.cfm?view=deep/publications&ptab=DEEP_Practice
_Briefs
45
Institutional strategies:
Involving blended professionals:
Blended professionals are “individuals who draw their identity from both professional
and academic domains, and are, in effect, developing new forms of space between
the two” (Whitchurch, 2009: 2) These staff typically have mixed portfolios and work in
a fluid space between and among academic and professional domains, developing a
network of relationships while being contained within formal reporting hierarchies
(ibid.: 3). Examples of “blended professionals” include learning developers, student
affairs professionals, educational developers and quality enhancement professionals.
Institutions who involve blended professionals in their student engagement strategies
demonstrate a united approach to engaging students, as illustrated by Kuh (2009 (a),
698):
Another way student affairs professionals can enhance student engagement
and success is by championing and themselves consistently using what the
research shows are effective educational practices…Student affairs could take
the lead in monitoring student participating in these and other effective
educational activities… and work with academic administrators and faculty
colleagues to find ways to scale them up to create enough opportunities so
that every student has a real chance to participate.
Institutional engagement plans
Coates (2010, 14) notes that:
…students‟ interactions with their institution do not necessarily align with
organisational structures. Building student engagement means building
processes and structures that are designed around and responsive to
increasingly diverse student needs. As institutions have demonstrated in
recent years, this may involve forming institution-wide action groups,
appointing people to manage student engagement initiatives, making funds
available for engagement-focused developments, building learning spaces
that support student participation, or enhancing the capacity of teaching staff
to challenge students to learn.
Jankowska & Atlay (2008) discuss the use of “creative space” to enhance students‟
engagement with the learning process, capitalising on a sense of “novelty and
surprise” to enhance collaboration and interactivity.
46
Krause (2005, 12 - 14) lists ten "working principles" to enhance student engagement:
1. Create and maintain a stimulating intellectual environment
Give students good reasons to be part of the learning community.
Provide a coherent and current course structure.
Stimulate discussion and debate, exploration and discovery.
2. Value academic work and high standards
Actively encourage commitment to study by attaching importance to studying
and spending time on academic work.
This may need to be modelled for students in first year so that they learn how
to balance the different dimensions of their lives.
3. Monitor and respond to demographic subgroup differences and their impact
on engagement
Make it a priority to get to know your students, their needs, aspirations and
motivations.
Monitor the subgroup differences and develop targeted strategies for
engaging students according to their needs and background experiences.
This provides a powerful platform for supporting and teaching students in a
responsive way so as to maximise the possibilities for engagement.
4. Ensure expectations are explicit and responsive
Communicate expectations clearly and consistently across the institution and
within faculties and departments.
Reiterate expectations at appropriate times through the semester and in
different settings - before semester begins, and before and during peak stress
times in the semester.
Include students in the expectation-building exercise. Listen to their
expectations. Be responsive where appropriate. Ensure that they know you
have listened to their views, but be sure to shape expectations so that the
highest standards of learning and teaching are maintained. Do not be driven
by unrealistic expectations.
47
5. Foster social connections
In small groups: When students have many off-campus commitments, the
value of in-class time should be maximised. Opportunities for active and
collaborative learning are particularly important. Encourage problem-solving
activities, small group discussion of reading and class materials, and provide
intellectual stimulation and challenge.
In large lectures: Even here, student interaction can be fostered through
question-answer sessions and a range of interactive activities which help to
break down the potentially alienating barriers created by the large group
anonymity syndrome.
Online: Provide for online discussion, collaboration and interaction.
Create opportunities for civic engagement with communities beyond the
campus.
6. Acknowledge the challenges
Let students know that you/ your department/ unit/ institution understand and
are aware of some of the pressures they face.
Acknowledge that a large proportion of students will be juggling work and
study commitments throughout the semester. This may be done in reading
guides, lectures or tutorials.
Be explicit and proactive in dealing with issues and challenges which
potentially jeopardise student engagement.
7. Provide targeted self-management strategies
Seek to develop self-regulated learners who drive their own engagement
behaviours.
Discuss strategies for time management and maintaining motivation,
particularly during stressful times of semester.
Identify the various sources of help early in the semester and at key moments
through semester so that students are prepared ahead of time. They need to
know that they are not alone in facing the challenges and they also need to
know where to go for help.
48
8. Use assessment to shape the student experience and encourage
engagement
Provide feedback and continuous assessment tasks early and often.
Use assessment in creative ways to bring peers together both in and out of
the classroom
Engage students in self-assessment and peer assessment so that the focus is
increasingly on their responsibility for becoming and remaining engaged in the
learning process.
9. Manage online learning experiences with care
Online resources: Placing lecture notes or audio streaming on the web is not a
substitute for effective lecturing. Students indicate that even when all lecture
notes are on the web, they will attend lectures if the lecture is interesting and
presented well. Contact with academics and their peers is crucial.
Student involvement: When lecture material is presented online, academics
need to develop strategies for encouraging student involvement during
lectures. For example, integrate activities into the lecture timeslot.
In online learning environments, capitalise on the community-building
capacities of online discussion forums to connect students to each other and
to the learning community (see Krause, 2005b).
10. Recognise the complex nature of engagement in your policy and practice
Engagement is a binding of students to each other, to meaningful learning
activities, and to the institution.
Engagement is also a battle for some students which creates conflict and
turmoil.
Engagement is an appointment for some who see university as one of many
engagements in their daily calendar of activities.
It should be a promise and a pledge which brings with it reciprocal rights and
responsibilities.
Engagement should be an interlocking and a „fastening‟ of students to learning
and university learning communities in an engagement relationship which is
mutually beneficial and continues well beyond graduation.
49
The nature of students‟ engagement changes over time – monitor the changes
from one year level to the next in transitions to and through the institution. Be
responsive in supporting different forms of engagement throughout their
experience.
Individual staff interventions:
Mann (2001, 17) outlines several “responses” that teaching staff can make to help
alienated students to become more engaged. These include:
Solidarity dissolving the estrangement through empathy and removing the
separation between lecturers and students;
Hospitality welcoming new members to the academic community by, for example,
making discourse more accessible;
Safety providing safe spaces where creativity is nurtured;
Redistribution of power allowing students to exercise power over their own learning
and development;
Criticality developing awareness of the conditions in which we work, and of the
responses we make to those, to allow questioning and examination.
Frameworks for Action
Our own proposals for strategies for engagement will be presented as Frameworks
for Action, as Deliverable 4.
Frameworks for action are conceptually-based lenses offered to leaders to help them
act in a more informed and theoretically illuminated way (See Bamber, Trowler,
Saunders and Knight, 2009, for examples). They aim to get beyond the usual kinds
of advice that textbooks and articles usually give: these are often devoid of explicit
theory, are conceptually malnourished and are not usually connected to the daily
reality of those in HE. Often such advice consists of little more than truisms that fail
the „Reversal Test‟ if you reverse them, they say nothing beyond the obvious.
50
Fullan and Scott, 2009, for example, tell leaders they should „Listen, Link and Lead‟,
that they should be decisive, committed and empathizing. Reversing that advice for
guidance on what not to do sounds ridiculous.
Just as one needs to try to avoid truisms, it is also important to avoid simplistic
notions of „evidence-based practice‟ purportedly applicable regardless of context.
Here the problem is a kind of atheoretical, context-blind empiricism: „abstracted
empiricism‟ as Mills called it (1959). Donald Schon warned about the alluring but
deceptively simple link between evidence and practices in 1983, making a
compelling argument for the necessity of cognitive work at the ground level by
reflective practitioners. But to do this work they need tools for thinking. Fullan and
Scott (2009) talk about action based on evidence, but as important is interpretation of
that evidence based on good theory. Action for change needs to be both evidentially
and theoretically informed.
So, any framework for action by change agents should be theoretically and
conceptually robust as well as informed by data; „evidence‟. Such frameworks should
stimulate the reflective practitioner to think about their own context, about the nature
of the innovation being considered and about how the two things fit together.
Abstracted truisms and dangerous generalisations can then, hopefully, be avoided
and at the same time the „bipolar division‟ between abstract theory and detailed
instances of events on the ground can be bridged (Warde, 2005).
Frameworks for action have four elements:
data from practice on the ground;
theory;
associated concepts;
and finally, questions for practitioner.
Theory and data interact with each other: data informs and refines theory; theory
shapes the interpretation of data. Concepts are crystallised out of that interaction and
themselves are applied to the situation on the ground. Finally, reflective questions
are formulated on the basis of those processes.
51
Conclusion:
A literature search on “Student Engagement” produced a body of some 1 000 results,
including articles in peer-reviewed journals (both print and online), books,
monographs, project reports, syllabi, conference papers (both published, referreed
conference proceedings and “raw” presentations), evaluation reports, pamphlets,
action guides, and speeches.
The bulk of the literature is concentrated in the USA and Australia, where the
implementation of national surveys of student engagement have added impetus to a
growing body of work with its roots in the 1980s work on student involvement, aimed
at demonstrating the robustness of the concept and its validity and reliability, as well
as its potential uses for those tasked with various roles in higher education delivery
and management.
Literature originating from the UK has a rather different character. It is
overwhelmingly focused on particular aspects of individual student learning, often on
tools (such as virtual learning environments) or techniques (such as a particular type
of feedback) or approaches to a particular situation (such as induction of distance
learners). Sample sizes tend to be small, often covering the experience of a single
class in a single year doing a particular module, and most often rely on measures of
student perception (how much they claim to have benefited when surveyed). The UK
literature formed a very small proportion of the overall body of literature found.
The literature was typically normative, with a single paper (Krause‟s 2005 paper)
engaging to any extent critically with the concept. Much of the literature
demonstrated reductionist or essentialised views of “the student”, with assumptions
about sameness among “Y Generation” students or ethnic minority students or older
students as distinct from some essentialised view of “the traditional student”.
Additionally, ideological perspectives were predominantly progressivist and
enterprise, with the poles of traditionalism and social reconstructivism under-
represented. While the relative absence of traditionalism is unsurprising in literature
on student engagement, the paucity of works from a social reconstructivist
perspective was striking.
52
There was very little literature on student engagement in governance and very little
of the student governance literature was concerned with student engagement. The
CHERI study focused exclusively on this aspect of student engagement but at a
systems-level view; an aggregated picture of how many HEIs do what and how
happy the institutions, vs the student bodies, are with these mechanisms is a useful
starting point but reveals little of the nature and texture of student engagement within
those institutions.
And while most of the literature discussed or assumed the benefits of student
engagement, a striking absence was the student voice in the literature on student
engagement. Instead, literature was written about students for managers, policy
makers, researchers, funders or teachers, with occasional briefing guides for student
leaders, by other managers, policy makers, researchers or teachers. Where student
voices appeared, it was as data in the form of quotes to illustrate arguments being
made by others about them.
This leads to a few recommendations for future research:
comparative studies akin to NSSE, AUSSE or the nascent SASSE (based on
NSSE, being piloted in South Africa) or Chinese version (currently under
development) to develop a national picture of student engagement in the UK;
finer-grained studies on student engagement in structures and practices,
including student governance, student voices in curriculum-shaping and the
perennial problem of “closing the feedback loop”;
exploration of the concept of “student engagement” from the student
perspective, including problematising the student role and identity in changing
contexts (such as part-time students, students who return to interrupted
studies, working students and students with family responsibilities);
a locally-grounded but internationally validated conceptualisation of student
engagement, which can be operationalised, tested and improved in
classrooms, halls of residence and student societies;
53
the development of a robust body of evidence built up through small-scale
local studies which speak to to confirm, challenge or redefine other
studies, so that instead of a collection of stand-alone, almost anecdotal
evidence, a more integrated and rigorous picture can emerge of practice and
effects.
Glossary
AUSSE Australasian Survey of Student Engagement (Australia and New Zealand)
NSSE National Survey of Student Engagement (USA and Canada)
SASSE South African Survey of Student Engagement (pilot phase)
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... Like many definitions of active learning, Laursen and Rasmussen's (2019) work centers on student engagement. We recognize that engagement is defined in myriad ways in research literature, including classroom activities, extracurricular informal activities, and various metrics by which to measure engagement (Trowler, 2010). In this paper, we focus on student engagement in the classroom and align with Laursen and Rasmussen's (2019) description. ...
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