Developing an understanding of why students do not engage.

Julie Irwin, John Knight


The aim of the Buckinghamshire New University REACT project was to develop a culture of engagement across the institution. This case study is a work-in-progress report of progress to date.

The project used an action research approach consisting of three cycles. The first involved analysis of quantitative data (NSS, progression and attrition statistics, module evaluations, DLHE statistics). The second is ongoing, exploring initial findings with a qualitative approach via focus groups and questionnaires. The third stage will involve developing and evaluating strategies for enhancing engagement on the basis of findings from cycles one and two.

Initial quantitative findings suggest a correlation between low levels of engagement and higher rates of attainment and attrition. Qualitative findings to date suggest that students are more likely to engage in extra-curricular activities where it is clear there is ‘something in it’ for them. It is also suggested that notions of student engagement might usefully be reframed to include staff and institutional engagement, acknowledging the need for students to feel that their involvement in university processes is valued, meaningful and acted upon and that they in turn are valued by their institutions.

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