Poor retention rates in and the cost of Higher Education (HE) concern both HE institutions and governments (Bryson & Hand, 2007; McCormick & McClenney, 2012). Student retention in HE has been associated with student engagement (Hu, 2010), a major topic of research related to learning, academic success and different positive outcomes in life including mental well-being, lifelong learning, student resilience, moral, ethical and psychosocial development (Baron & Corbin, 2012). In a mainstream approach to student engagement in HE, there appears to be a shift of onus from student to institution given that poor student engagement affects institutional reputations (Harper and Quaye, 2009; Kahn, 2014). Student engagement in HE tends to be linked to quality assurance mechanisms and competitive advantage; students are perceived as both consumers and commodities. In this context, academic capitalism comprises both the action of the public university in response to neoliberal market policies and the students’ engagement that is restricted to activities from which they can profit (Baron & Corbin, 2012). A passive consumer attitude is related to the fees charged by institutions (Richards & Richards, 2013; Robinson, 2012; Zepke et al., 2014) and the entertainment model of teaching in which education is a product, rather than a process (Robinson, 2012). Students may seem more engaged with getting a good job later than with HE itself, thus, as a means to an end (Bryson & Hand, 2007).
The desirable forms of student engagement depend on the ideological basis of each educational approach: proper student engagement in one framework may be seen as excessively passive in another context (Gourlay, 2015). However, what “unites the various elements of ‘legitimate’ engagement is the focus on activity which is communicative, recordable, public, observable and often communal” (Gourlay, 2015, p. 404). In an active learning scale, a student who does not ask questions is thought to be disengaged, but such attitude may be related to personal and cultural preferences and interpreted differently across disciplines (Zepke, 2014). There may be an orthodoxy of student engagement that sees quiet, private, non-verbal and non-observable practices as deviant and in need of remediation (Gourlay, 2015).
An engaging pedagogy in HE should find ways of accommodating outside influences since many students study part time and expect study to fit their lives, rather than the reverse (Zepke, 2013). Nevertheless, many authors (Bryson & Hand, 2007; Dean & Jolly, 2012; Kahn, 2014) emphasize the non-applicability of universal pedagogical solutions since the differences among the students and the diversity and complexity of learning prevent the use of generalised models. For instance, initiatives that challenged students who positioned themselves as passive recipients of knowledge by implementing constructivist dialogic approaches recognized the fine line that exists between taking the students out of their comfort zones and out of the class altogether. Participating in a more active way could be challenging, frightening and seen as more entertaining than learning (Masika & Jones, 2016; Richards & Richards, 2013).
Considering the importance of how HE students understand and assess their own engagement, this paper presents the results of qualitative research analysing 46 self-evaluations of undergraduate Pedagogy students from two different courses at a Spanish university. The goals were to identify a) what the students considered as signs of and reasons for their engagement, b) how the students related their engagement to the teacher’s methods, and c) how the students related their learning to their engagement and the teacher’s methods.
Baron, P. & Corbin, L. (2012). Student engagement: rhetoric and reality. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(6), 759-772. DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2012.655711 Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77-101. Bryson, C. & Hand, L. (2007). The role of engagement in inspiring teaching and learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(4), 349-362, DOI: 10.1080/14703290701602748 Dean, K. L., & Jolly, J. P. (2012). Student identity, disengagement, and learning. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(1), 1-42. Gourlay, L. (2015) ‘Student engagement’ and the tyranny of participation. Teaching in Higher Education, 20(4), 402-411, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2015.1020784 Harper, S. R. & Quaye, S. J. (2009). Beyond sameness, with engagement and outcomes for all: an introduction. In S. R. Harper & S. J. Quaye (Eds.) Student engagement in Higher Education: theoretical perspectives and practical approaches for diverse populations (pp.1-16). New York: Routledge. Hu, S. (2010). Reconsidering the Relationship Between Student Engagement and Persistence in College. Innovative Higher Education, 36, 97–106 DOI: 10.1007/s10755-010-9158-4 Kahn, P. E. (2014). Theorising student engagement in higher education. British Educational Research Journal, 40(6), 1005–1018. DOI: 10.1002/berj.3121 Masika, R. & Jones, J. (2016). Building student belonging and engagement: insights into higher education students’ experiences of participating and learning together, Teaching in Higher Education, 21:2, 138-150, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2015.1122585 McCormick, A. C. & McClenney, K. (2012). Will these trees ever bear fruit? A response to the special issue on student engagement. The Review of Higher Education, 35(2), 307-333. Richards, R. W. & Richards, L. M. (2013). Sponges do not make their own water: student engagement through dialogue and the development of reflective consciousness. Reflective Practice, 14(6), 774-786, DOI: 10.1080/14623943.2013.836083 Robinson, C. (2012). Student engagement. Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 4(2), 94-108 DOI: 10.1108/17581181211273039 Zepke, N. (2013). Threshold concepts and student engagement: revisiting pedagogical content knowledge. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(2), 97-107. Zepke, N. (2014) Student engagement research in higher education: questioning an academic orthodoxy. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(6), 697-708, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2014.901956 Zepke, N. Leach, L. & Butler, P. (2014) Student engagement: students' and teachers' perceptions. Higher Education Research & Development, 33(2), 386-398, DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2013.832160
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
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