Students, Teachers And Video Tapes. A Study Of Academic

H 3.6
Session: H
Parallel Session: 3.6
Research Domain: Learning and Teaching in Post-Compulsory and Higher Education
Christine Hockings1, Sandra Cooke2
of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton,
Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Students, Teachers And Video Tapes.
University Classrooms.
A Study Of Academic Engagement In
‘What can we do to engage our students?’ is probably one of the most frequently pondered
questions in university staff rooms and academic development programmes the length and breadth
of the country. It has sparked a rise in interest in books and journals that offer the university
lecturer advice and case studies on innovative teaching designed to make lessons more engaging.
However in this paper we do not attempt to find technical solutions to this question but ask instead
what is ‘engagement’ and under what conditions can/do students engage with or disengage from
learning? This study forms part of a two-year ESRC/TLRP funded project in which we take a
critical approach to understanding how social, cultural, epistemological and personal factors affect
learning and teaching within the context of mass higher education and widening participation
across two distinct universities.
In the first part of the paper we define the concept of ‘academic engagement’ with reference to
Ashwin and McLean’s (2005) model that brings together phenomenographic ‘approaches to
learning’ research (e.g. Marton and Booth 1997) and ‘critical pedagogy’ (e.g. Friere 1996). We
outline how we have extended this model to take account of students’ and teachers’ ways of
knowing (Belenky et al. 1997) to help us explore the ways in which students and teachers bring
their own identities, backgrounds and experiences to the learning task (Giroux 1992). In the
second part we describe the action research phase of this project (Carr and Kemmis 1986), the
two institutions in which the study took place, the eight participating university teachers, the
subjects and students they teach, and the range of qualitative data collection methods used. In our
analysis, we use extracts from twenty-four video recorded classroom sessions and reflective
interviews held with the teachers and their students to illustrate the ways that students’ and
teachers’ backgrounds and identities, and their conceptions of learning, teaching and knowing in
the subject, play out in the classroom and affect academic engagement. Finally, drawing upon this
analysis, the lessons learnt from participating students and the reflections and changes made by
the eight teachers, we consider the implications for policy and practice within these two universities
and in the context of widening participation in higher education as whole.
Ashwin, P. and McLean, M. (2005), Towards a reconciliation of phenomenographic and critical
pedagogy perspectives in higher education through a focus on academic engagement, in Rust. C.
(ed) in 12th International Improving Student Learning Symposium, Diversity and Inclusivity’,
(Oxford, The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development)
Belenky, M., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., Tarule, J. (1997) Women’s ways of knowing. Second
Edition. (New York, Basic Books).
Carr, W. and Kemmis, S. (1986) Becoming critical. Education, knowledge and action research.
(London, Falmer Press).
Freire, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the oppressed. Revised edition. Translated by M.B. Ramos. First
published in 1970. (London, Penguin Books).
Giroux, H. (1992) Border Crossings, (London, Routledge).
Marton, F. and Booth, S. (1997) Learning and awareness. (New Jersey. Lawrence Erlbaum