How students engage with their learning and develop their skills

Friday 3rd December 2021

On 24 November 2021, we welcomed Jonathan Neves, Head of Business Intelligence and Surveys of Advance HE, to our first Widening Participation Forum of 2021/22.

The Widening Participation Forum takes an in-depth look at the barriers students face when accessing and engaging in higher education and the steps we can take to remove these obstacles. Dr Joan O’ Mahony, Director of Academic Development of Bloomsbury Institute, opened the Forum and was joined by panellists Cal Courtney, Director of the Centre for Community Engagement and Learning, Dr Joe Stevens, Principal Lecturer in Law and Course Leader, Head of EDI Maria Jackson, and enthusiastic staff from across a number of Divisions.

On this occasion, Jonathan shared the findings from the UK Engagement Survey on how students engage with their learning and develop their skills.

Student engagement has always been and always will be our priority here at Bloomsbury Institute. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) 2021, student engagement is not only the amount of time and effort students put into their studies and educational activities but is also how an HEI uses its resources and designs the curriculum and other learning opportunities to encourage student participation.

“The findings from UK Engagement Survey show an interesting interaction between engagement, skill development, and time spent learning” found Jonathan. His key takeaways from his presentation were:

  • Working with staff can positively impact on retention.
  • Despite the well-recognised attainment gap, Black students consistently show the highest level of engagement – a point that is arguably not recognised across the sector. Skills development is highest among Black students – emphasising the link between engagement, time spent, and skills.
  • Commuter students, mature students and those from low participation backgrounds are the most likely to engage. This emphasises a high level of commitment and organisation. However, despite the high level of engagement in mature students, they are less likely to spend time in the activities that have the strongest link to skills development due to other demands.

The presentation was followed by a lively interactive discussion with the attendees. The Widening Participation Forum is the perfect opportunity for educators to reflect on a range of key issues, including how staff-student partnerships can be encouraged, how to better understand the higher levels of engagement among Black students and how we can support students in attending extra-curricular activities.

The findings from the UK Engagement Survey emphasises that the more students do, the more they develop. We strive to provide students with the support that they need to succeed. Initiatives/programs such as Let’s Grow, Wellbeing Workshops, Learning Enhancement, and Peer-Assisted Learning Scheme were designed to develop skills and engage in learning activities.

Slides from the event are filed on our Research Forum teams site. In addition, the full UK Engagement Survey report can be downloaded from the Advance HE Surveys webpage.

We are pleased the first forum went very well and are excited for the upcoming Widening Participation Forum on Wednesday, 12 January 2022. See you next year!