Department for Curriculum and Quality Enhancement

Keynote address 1

Professor Carol Evans (University of Southampton)

What do we know about student engagement and how do we know it?

In this keynote, I will explore conceptions of student engagement and ask the question as to what student engagement should look like in 21st century higher education learning environments. Drawing on the findings of my Engaged Student Learning report for the Higher Education Academy (Evans, et al., 2015) I will explore the research findings on effective pedagogies within and across disciplines in line with the overarching theme of the conference ‘Delivering an engaging student experience’. Finally I will outline the role of assessment feedback in promoting student and lecturer engagement, and I will outline the EAT framework that I have developed to support self-regulatory assessment feedback practice within higher education


Keynote address 2

Professor Ray Land (Durham University) 

Preparing students for higher level learning (inducting students into University Learning)

The transition into higher education, at whatever age – directly from secondary school or as amature entrant – is rarely without challenge. Lee Shulman, former Director of the CarnegieCommission, noted that, ‘without a certain amount of anxiety and risk, there's a limit to how much learning occurs. One must have something at stake. No emotional investment, no intellectual orformational yield’. If one of the major purposes of a higher education is to bring our students to a point where they can make informed evaluative judgements, judgements based on defensible evidence, and often made in contexts that they have not experienced previously, then this willrequire a transformative approach to learning, taking them beyond the often ‘scripted’ modes of learning they may have experienced previously. They will need to ‘venture into strange places’ as Barnett recommends and they will inevitably encounter ‘troublesome knowledge’ – knowledge that obliges them to abandon their prevailing views and move into new conceptual, affective and sometimes on to logical space. As Dewey once observed ‘The path of least resistance and least trouble is a mental rut already made. It requires troublesome work to undertake the alteration of old beliefs.

’The ‘threshold concepts’ approach to student learning advocates the idea that certain concepts or practices can act in the manner of a portal, through which a changed perspective opens up for the learner. The latter enters new conceptual terrain, which permits previously inaccessible ways of thinking and practising. These conceptual gateways are often the points at which students experience difficulty and are often troublesome as they require a letting go of customary ways of seeing. They provoke a state of ‘liminality’ – a space of transformation and transition from an earlier understanding or practice towards that which is required. This tends to be uncomfortable, and may leave the learner in a suspended state, or 'stuck place', in which understanding approximates to a kind of 'mimicry' or lack of authenticity.

In contradistinction to these purposes, a powerful discursive shift has occurred within higher education globally in recent decades in which HE teaching is rendered increasingly as the facilitationof a rather ill-defined ‘student learning experience’, and as a primarily economic rather than educational transaction. The learner is constructed as a consumer and satisfaction surveys and module evaluation scores place students and teachers in an oppositional stance, intensifying internal market competition between colleagues and courses. This is potentially antithetical to critical or transformative notions of pedagogy. Teaching may become risk-averse, innovation uncomfortable and the language of transformation may retreat.

This session will explore the challenges of transformative approaches, and inducting students into higher learning, whilst seeking to ensure appropriate levels of student satisfaction and self-esteem.