engagement - Lancaster University

Engaging Students: concepts,
practices, resources.
Paul Trowler
• Student engagement has behavioural, cognitive and affective
dimensions, with congruent (conforming) and oppositional (rebellious or
innovative) manifestations of each of these.
• Our working definition, based on the literature, states that:
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.
3 foci.....
• Individual Student Learning
• Structure and Process
• Identity
3 axes
lectures, Skips lectures without Boycotts,
with excuse
disrupts lectures
exceeds Assignments
rushed or absent
late, Redefines parameters
for assignments
Please see handout …..
and offer your
comments on it
What’s missing
• http://www.pedagogicequality.ac.uk/
Ashwin, P., McLean, M., and Abbas, A. (2012)
Quality and Inequality in Undergraduate
Courses: A guide for national and institutional
policy makers. Nottingham: University of
Educational ideology
• Market Model of Student Engagement
• Developmental Model of Student
Engagement (DMSE).
(there is also a social reconstructionist model and a traditionalist model)
Difficult to move all the way along May’s Stages of Engagement for each of
these under the MMSE:
Consultation – Involvement – Participation - Partnership
Engagement for what?
Engagement to improve learning
Engagement for curricular relevance
Engagement for democratisation and participation
Engagement for equality / social justice / inclusivity
Engagement to improve throughput rates and retention
Engagement for institutional benefit
Engagement as marketing
Engagement for value-for-money
Some pointers....
The DEEP Project (Documenting Effective Educational Practices) – a
collaboration between the National Survey of Student Engagement and
the American Association for Higher Education) (Kezar 2005: 2-4)
documents leadership characteristics common across engaged / engaging
institutions, such as • Developing a shared understanding of institutional mission and
• Building a strong sense of community;
• Modelling collaboration and distributed leadership through shared
• Ensuring that students have a prominent voice in campus governance;
• Adopting structures which encourage cross-functional activities focussed
on student success;
• Tightening the philosophical and operational linkages between academic
and student affairs;
• Empowering and supporting academic leadership;
• Creating and capitalising on cross-functional, boundary-spanning
The Leadership Foundation
Engagement Champions in senior roles......(empowering and supporting
“The opportunity for students to have a voice, to be co-producers in all
aspects of their education and the university and its wider community… is
something we’ve been focused on as the students union for a long time, but I
must say since the arrival of [the current VC] we’ve had a real commitment.
We have had a commitment from senior leadership prior to that, but it
tended to be solely in the area of the academic experience…
We’re in a fantastic position now and the university is really committed to
making sure the student voice is heard.” (Student Leader)
The Leadership
Foundation Study....
Building community and shared
“Most of that is about inspiring engagement, by
people to an extent seeing that it’s about
partnership. It may start with respect and
develop into something more jointly owned. I
think often it starts with a power relationship
and then it builds into something which is much
more equal. (Senior Manager)”
Different agendas…..
“What the University wants from [student engagement] is some instrumental things,
a more satisfied student population as measured, it wants a more successful
student population, so it wants a student population that loses less students, so it
wants all of those instrumental measures of success. But increasingly the University
recognises that the only way to get there is to achieve a more participative
environment, a more supportive environment, a more positive environment…
and thus for those things to emerge…
…I’m saying to Deans and [other senior managers] the reason for going down this road
of engaging with students and trying to an extent frame expectations but also
meet expectations and create a more partnered environment is that it will help you
achieve your financial bottom line because you’ll lose less students. S
I think you can have people on the same journey for different motivations and I
don’t think that matters particularly. What matters is the journey.” (Senior
Industrial relations
I’ve spent a lot of my life involved in studying trade unions and
the management of staff in universities and elsewhere, and there
are parallel concepts of employee engagement and there are
objects of trade union activism. It strikes me that all these things
are about partnership and cooperation and working together.
You can’t do it on your own. Students can’t be engaged on their
own. They have to have someone willingly engaging with them.
(Senior Leader)
(Heckscher’s work: http://www.heckscher.com/)
Success factors 1…
• Bringing student representatives onto all kinds of university structures,
including those concerned with changes to systems, structures or
processes (such as building project boards) in material ways – such as
equal numbers of staff and students on programme committees.
• GOAT (go out and talk) & GOAL (go out and listen) - speaking informally,
and often, to leaders and representatives of other sectors (students,
senior managers, staff leaders, etc), to gauge their feelings and views, and
developing strong personal relationships based on mutual respect
• Actively involving the university in students’ union activities
• Ensuring that the student representative system is really representative
of all constituencies within the student body, including “invisible” groups
such as part-time students, student parents or students from elsewhere
• Active student involvement in the selection of senior managers with a
high level of personal commitment to student engagement – and then
holding them accountable to this commitment
Success factors 2….
• Reviewing procedures to ensure that these don’t themselves give rise to
problems or complaints, and lightening the bureaucratic load
• “Closing the feedback loop” – ensuring that everybody sees the results
and can celebrate the “wins” of engagement
• For managers and staff, wanting to see things from students’
perspectives, and being genuinely committed to ensuring students have a
positive experience at university
• Shifting the official policies to reflect a genuine prioritisation of
partnership and community, and the prioritisation of student engagement,
and ensuring consistent messages from senior management
• Not being A Manager – working against a “managerial” image to connect
in a way that is meaningful to students / staff
• Replacing a culture of compliance with a culture of permission, tolerating
“mess” and uncertainty
• Dogged persistence until the mindset and the culture change, so that
collaborative approaches become automatic and can be self-sustaining
• “Finding the right people”
Getting there: bridge metaphor
...allows specifics of starting place, for the environment, the climate, the
terrain. “Journeys” are seldom simply unproblematic linear progressions
from one point to another. Metaphor also permits the possibility of
retreat back along one’s path, or for facilitating the passage of those
who follow.
Need to think about
• The three dimensions of student
• Where are we now on each of these and what
do we want to change (and how)?
Bridge design....
• Salience (how important engagement
initiatives are in relation to the many others
coming at staff and students)
• Congruence (how they fit in, or don’t, with
current practices)
• Profitability (how far current sets of interests
and priorities are met, and how these can be
• Student engagement needs to be a thorough-going commitment
throughout the university if it is to be sustainable. While pockets of “good
practice” are useful for modelling and inspiring, without a genuine
commitment from leaders in all sectors and at all levels of the university,
student engagement runs the risk of being “the next big thing” shuffled
off the agenda once something else comes along.
• Student engagement has at its root mutual respect. Without trust, a
willingness to share power in appropriate ways struggles against inhibition
and reluctance. True partnership shares responsibility as well as authority.
• Community matters. Beyond the partnership, the sense of belonging to
something greater than one’s programme, one’s department or one’s
university provides investment, involvement and purpose in an outwardfacing direction.
• Students are inspired by staff who are inspired. Student engagement
requires engaged staff – of all kinds.
– Salience: how important is this student engagement
initiative in your institution compared to other initiatives?
– Congruence: Which of the approaches to student
engagement do you wish to enhance in your institution? Is
it the most congruent with the character of the place in
terms of current practices?
– Profitability: In what ways would these intended changes
benefit the various groups involved: staff; students;
managers? Would the benefits be obvious to them? If not,
what might persuade them of these benefits?
– What change strategies can you adopt that are likely to
shift established practices in the desired direction?
– Consider the success factors compared with the situation
at your institution. What needs to be addressed?
• Our HEA reports....
• Our LFHE Reports…
• Sakai Engagement site:
(login with username: [email protected] and password: welcome)
• NUS Engagement toolkit:
• NSSE and AUSSE……..
• DEEP Project guides: http://nsse.iub.edu/_/?cid=128
• Paul Hamlyn Project Report: Building Student Engagement for Retention and
Our Leadership for Engagement
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