he RAISE 2019 conference titled “Exploring the Impact of Student Engagement” started in the fabulous Kings Hall at the University of Newcastle. The Keynote from Professor Bruce Macfarlane made it very clear that the term that the term ‘Student Engagement’ has dual meanings and within our institutions we should be clear how we are using the term. For example the term is also used in management to mean attendance or simple engagement such as turning up and staying awake in lectures. As there is pressure in HE to monitor attendance this word ‘engagement’ has been somewhat misrepresented. The discussion after the presentation discussed the notion that Policies of heavily monitored or enforced attendance to create behavioural change are not really appropriate in the context of this conference of indeed supportive of a cooperative learning environment. I have been using this term ‘student engagement’, frequently (but without definition) to mean the engagement of students in collaboratively making decisions about their learning and how they are taught. It was clear very early in the day that focus of the conference was firmly on this more positive aspect of ‘student engagement’ to impact deeply and actively in their learning but care should be taken to clarify the term. I quickly found myself at home amongst very open, friendly and like minded educators.

Presenting My Paper and Running a Lego® Workshop

I had been kindly invited to present a paper on “What students think their module looks like?” which engaged students as partners in module evaluation and co-design. And also to run a workshop on how to use the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Methodology for student and staff engagement with module design.

The paper explores a project based on how design processes, methods and approaches can bring the student voice into the design of learning. Amongst other methods, this project has included the use of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® as a democratic method to gain rich insights, from staff and students, to encourage creative innovation in module design. The workshop was well received and staff were introduced to Lego© Serious Play© method and had some practical experience of how the method can be used to build visualisations of module designs.

Fellow Presenters I Enjoyed

It was great to meet fellow LSP’ers Julia Reeve and Gosia Plotka from De Montfort University who ran a workshop on #Mindbuilder: a Lego© Serious Play© competition for research students at DMU. The competition enabled students to engage deeply with both their own PhD research topics and with peers. Lego© Serious Play© is making its way into many aspects of HE. Julia and Gosia also set a challenge to the participants to ask us what we thought student engagement meant to us. It was interesting to hear different viewpoints about this topic from both students and staff.

It is rare that a presentation changes your whole idea of higher education, however one of the stand out sessions did exactly that. It was from Professor Mike Neary of the University of Lincoln who presented the co-operative university, due to open shortly in Manchester. Mike casually introduced this radical idea – a university run entirely democratically by its members. This futuristic sounding idea, utilising thinking from the very early years of education, raises the “concept of student engagement to a new level of leadership, governance and management”, with a system based around true cooperative foundations of one person one vote. https://www.co-op.ac.uk/Pages/Category/co-operative-university

– Thanks Mike, it really made me think and best of luck with the project.

Dr Kerry Gough and student Ben Rostance Nottingham Trent University produced an engaging presentation which explored how we can design curriculum more effectively to allow students to experience failure more readily as a part of the learning experience. Wow, learning design to encourage failure. Perhaps we can even reward failure though reflective practices?

The conference finished with a presentation from Cathy Bovill. A fantastic opportunity to hear someone whose work you admire and have referenced. It brings research to life and puts a personal angle on it. Cathy presented a couple of slides to explain the term co-creation. One I have used a great deal and is fast becoming a focus for my research which links both my discipline of design and my research and scholarship in education. Students as change agents in a mutually beneficial process.

Concluding Thoughts

Raise is an amazing conference which very much feels like an inclusive family. I was impressed and inspired. Hats off to Colin Bryson and his team for organising a great conference and I very much look forward to RAISE 2020 hosted by the University of Lincoln. http://www.raise-network.com/

People Mentioned:

  • Professor Bruce Macfarlane
  • Julia Reeve
  • Gosia Plotka
  • Professor Mike Neary
  • Dr Kerry Gough
  • Ben Rostance
  • Cathy Bovill
  • Colin Bryson
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