In “Understanding and Promoting Student Engagement in University Learning Communities” the seminal paper based on her research on university student engagement and written for the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, Dr. Kerri-Lee Krause (2005) proposes the following 10 ‘working principles’ and practical applications to enhance student engagement. We present them here as a checklist of best practices for faculty.
1. Create and maintain a stimulating intellectual environment
Give students good reasons to be part of the learning community.
— Provide a coherent and current course structure.
— Stimulate discussion and debate, exploration and discovery.
2. Value academic work and high standards
— Actively encourage commitment to study by attaching importance to studying and spending time on academic work. This may need to be modeled for students in the first year so that they learn how to balance the different dimensions of their lives.
3. Monitor and respond to demographic subgroup differences and their impact on engagement
— Make it a priority to get to know your students, their needs, aspirations, and motivations.
— Monitor the subgroup differences and develop targeted strategies for engaging students according to their needs and background experiences.
— This provides a powerful platform for supporting and teaching students in a responsive way so as to maximize the possibilities for engagement.
4. Ensure expectations are explicit and responsive
— Communicate expectations clearly and consistently across the institution and within faculties and departments.
— Reiterate expectations at appropriate times through the semester and in different settings – before the semester begins, and before and during peak stress times in the semester.
— Include students in the expectation-building exercise. Listen to their expectations. Be responsive where appropriate. Ensure that they know you have listened to their views, but be sure to shape expectations so that the highest standards of learning and teaching are maintained. Do not be driven by unrealistic expectations.
5. Foster social connections
— In small groups: When students have many off-campus commitments, the value of in-class time should be maximized. Opportunities for active and collaborative learning are particularly important. Encourage problem-solving activities, small group discussion of reading and class materials, and provide intellectual stimulation and challenge.
— In large lectures: Even here, student interaction can be fostered through question-answer sessions and a range of interactive activities that help to break down the potentially alienating barriers created by the large group anonymity syndrome.
— Online: Provide for online discussion, collaboration, and interaction.
— Create opportunities for civic engagement with communities beyond the campus.
6. Acknowledge the challenges
— Let students know that you/your department/unit/institution understand and are aware of some of the pressures they face.
— Acknowledge that a large proportion of students will be juggling work and study commitments throughout the semester. This may be done in reading guides, lectures, or tutorials.
— Be explicit and proactive in dealing with issues and challenges that potentially jeopardize student engagement.
7. Provide targeted self-management strategies
— Seek to develop self-regulated learners who drive their own engagement behaviors.
— Discuss strategies for time management and maintaining motivation, particularly during stressful times of the semester.
— Identify the various sources of help early in the semester and at key moments through the semester so that students are prepared ahead of time. They need to know that they are not alone in facing the challenges and they also need to know where to go for help.
8. Use assessment to shape the student experience and encourage engagement
— Provide feedback and continuous assessment tasks early and often.
— Use assessment in creative ways to bring peers together both in and out of the classroom
— Engage students in self-assessment and peer assessment so that the focus is increasingly on their responsibility for becoming and remaining engaged in the learning process.
9. Manage online learning experiences with care
— Online resources: Placing lecture notes or audio streaming on the web is not a substitute for effective lecturing. Students indicate that even when all lecture notes are on the web, they will attend lectures if the lecture is interesting and presented well. Contact with academics and their peers is crucial.
— Student involvement: When lecture material is presented online, academics need to develop strategies for encouraging student involvement during lectures. For example, integrate activities into the lecture timeslot.
— In online learning environments, capitalize on the community-building capacities of online discussion forums to connect students to each other and to the learning community (see Krause, 2005).
10. Recognize the complex nature of engagement in your policy and practice
Engagement is a binding of students to each other, to meaningful learning activities, and to the institution. Engagement is also a battle for some students that creates conflict and turmoil. Engagement is an appointment for some who see university as one of many engagements in their daily calendar of activities. It should be a promise and a pledge that brings with it reciprocal rights and responsibilities. Engagement should be an interlocking and a ‘fastening’ of students to learning and university learning communities in an engagement relationship that is mutually beneficial and continues well beyond graduation.
— The nature of students’ engagement changes over time – monitor the changes from one year level to the next in transitions to and through the institution. Be responsive in supporting different forms of engagement throughout their experience.
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