Student Engagement

I am Serengul Smith from Middlesex University and will be this week’s “Guest Blogger”.

Like many academics, I have been trialling a range of methods to make our students passionate and enthusiastic about their own learning and continuing progress. Also, I have always had a keen interest in building a collaborative way of designing and delivering modules to enhance the student learning experience and increase team members’ motivation and involvement by sharing responsibilities and ownership.
Getting regular feedback from students has also helped me to understand which teaching and learning strategies work best and are more beneficial to my students.

Embedding new initiatives into our curriculum design, such as the following, I have been trying to achieve:

  • Enhancing our existing modules or designing new ones in order to facilitate final year students undertaking teaching projects within local schools and various communities as part of their degree programmes;
  • Designing compulsory assessed projects as part of various modules for final year students to engage students with external projects and in various outreach and ‘widening participation’ events.
  • So far, my work has mostly focused on these two points. However, I found a case study on student engagement, “Students and staff co-creating the curriculum: research into three case studies from Scotland, Ireland and the USA” by Dr Catherine Bovill, very inspirational, challenging and worth reading.

    This case study focuses on the rationale for student engagement; the processes involved; the issues and challenges of collaborative curriculum design; and offers useful advice to others who are considering involving students in curriculum design and delivery.

    Another useful resource is ‘Framework for action: enhancing student engagement at the institutional level (HEA, November 2012).

    Student engagement in learning and teaching is an important part in curriculum design and delivery. A collection of survey reports and case studies based on HEA funded research on student engagement can be found at

    This entry was posted in Resource Centre by serengulsmith. Bookmark the permalink.

    About serengulsmith

    I am a principal lecturer and the Programme leader for the Information Technology, Multimedia Computing, Information Technology and Networking and Interactive Systems Design programmes in the School of Engineering and Information Sciences (EIS) at Middlesex University. Since November 2010, I have been acting as the School’s Learning and Teaching Strategy (LTS) Leader.

    8 thoughts on “Student Engagement

    1. One of the lessons from the PGCert Learning and Supporting Teaching in HE that I am currently doing is that there is huge value in agreeing with students what they are going to get, even if it doesn’t go as far as a complete negotiation of the curriculum. We have spent the first session of each module exploring the Learning Outcomes to make sure we really understand them, and for the current module, we agreed collectively what the marking criteria are for the final summative assessment. The idea is (of course) that if students discuss these things, then there is a greater sense of ownership. I would also expect the tutors to get a better sense of what students already know, which may then mean they can skip bits of the curriculum already well understood and spend more time on the bits students do’t get. Has anyone else tried this in an STEM programme?

      The other side to engagement is making learning fun and interesting, something we have been working on quite hard this year by introducing a lot more group activity and games into our information literacy teaching. (I’m a librarian supporting STEM programmes at Middlesex.) I’m sure there are examples of good practice out there others will be able to share.

      • Due to increased competition between universities, student engagement has become a very challenging and multifaceted topic in HE. Teaching institutions have been increasingly investing in various approaches to ensure that their student engagement, teaching and learning strategies are able to respond to the changing needs of the job market.

        Involving students in curriculum development or development of module content is something we need to look at more closely, however making learning more practical, fun and interesting sounds good to me.

      • Adam, which years did you get to discuss and agree the marking criteria. I attempted this with some of my final years in their last semester and it was the opposite of student engagement. I was not sure if I had left it too late and been too ambitious as a first step. We regularly get low marks in our module feedback forms that students do not understand the marking criteria and I thought an exercise like this would help them engage with these criteria. I would like to try it again but I think I potentially need to rethink my strategy.

        • The marking criteria are for the PGCert course I am doing. This is for academic and support staff, so not a programme for UG students. Should have made that clearer.

          Closest I’ve got to this in my own teaching was recently getting PG students to agree evaluation criteria for how to assess journal articles, but a much simpler exercise of course.



    2. As the academic writing and language coordinator for STEM students at Middlesex, student engagement is always an issue in my embedded sessions. Students often don’t realise they need to have good writing and language skills to succeed at university (especially those studying sciences or technology) or in the workplace.

      Last month I attended the “Judging quality in disciplinary writing: what can students learn from peer assessment and composing feedback?” HEA workshop organised by Queen Mary (UoL) at which Paul Orsmond presented (see Steve Rutherford’s blog on 8 June). Having students involved in the assessment process can be an interesting way to get students more engaged in their learning. It will (one hopes) make students more involved in the process of teaching and learning and also aware of the complexities of assessment.

      Thanks for the resources, Serengul. I look forward to reading them.

    3. There is a new report out today, the CBI / Pearson Education & Skills report which says that there has been no improvement in employability skills in the past 10 years. You can find it here:

      Is it time for Universities to start issuing a separate “Certificate of Employability Skills” that students can use to prove they have the required skills?

      • Wow – getting the proof might be difficult :-) We need to define employability, work out how to measure it, defend the certificate when employers say ‘uh oh, this person had the certificate but no skills evident to me’. It’s all a little bizarre isn’t it – a degree should show that you have self-management, communication, team working skills, otherwise, according to all the QAA benchmarking I’ve seen, you should not really be able to earn the degree!

    4. Good to see that this post has raised such debate on this important topic.

      One comment on the “Certificate Of Employability Skills” is that this is so discipline dependent that it would be impossible to implement.

      That survey’s particularly related to schools and colleges, but it just mirrors the complaint that universities often broadcast that students are arriving without core subject skills.

      For employability, personality I think that we should be helping students to answer the “so what” question. What is the thing that they have that sets them apart from everyone else who is graduating from their course? That’s the employability difference maker.


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