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Critical perspectives on student engagement

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Bruce Macfarlane

on 10 August 2016

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Transcript of Critical perspectives on student engagement

Critical perspectives on student engagement
Carl Rogers: We should focus on the needs of the students, NOT the teachers.

'We cannot teach another person directly; we can only facilitate his learning'
Rogers (1951:389)

* Silence can be as indicative of learning as talking (Reda, 2009; Jin, 2012)
* Group work at university does not reflect the reality of the 'real world'
* Students often dislike group work (Flint & Johnson, 2011) find it poor value for time and resent listening to dominating classmates (Hancock, 2004)
* Grading of groupwork is often seen as unfair (Volet & Ang, 1998)
* Up to a half of all students are uncomfortable about sharing their opinions in class (Graham et al, 2007)
* Students feel anxious about the loss of anonymity in a large class when a 'student-centred' approach is used (Machemer & Crawford, 2007)

The characteristics of a performative culture

* Demonstrates a loss of trust
* Distorts patterns of behaviour
* Makes non-audited elements invisible
* Punishes non-compliance
Participative performativity
Emotional performativity
Bodily performativity
* Compulsory attendance rules
* More draconian measures (eg swipe in cards; lock-outs; rules on progression)
* Attendance 'proxies' (eg class tests;
presentations; synchronous posting to online
The ill effects of students performativity

* The infantilisation of students (eg compulsory
* Rewarding academic non-achievement (eg grades
for attendance)
* Punishing introverts, rewarding extroverts
(eg class contribution grading on basis of
vocal self-expression)
* Leaving students exposed to the vagaries of
group work grading because it is 'like real
life' (when its not)
* The loss of privacy resulting from confessional
style reflections

Some evidence from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Undergraduate students who agreed the following 'often' or 'always' took place:

* Attendance registers are taken at class (59.3%)

* In-class assessments, such as tests and oral presentations, are used (71.4%)

* Students are awarded an individual grade on the basis of their contribution in-class (56.7%)

* There is assessment grading of group tasks or assignments (84.3%)

* Students are expected to demonstrate a commitment to make the world a more just and sustainable place (51.9%)

Source: Author's survey of HKU undergraduates (n 293, yr 2 and above) in 2013, unpublished data.

* Class contribution grades
* Group work (eg PBL)
* Peer learning and assessment
How 'student-centred' is being re-defined:

2. The paradigm of distrust

- sign in sheets at classes
- quasi-legal assignment hand-in sheets
- requirements that all students put
assignments through Turnitin
- control and censorship of student contributions to online forums
How 'student-centred' is being redefined:

1. The 'tyranny of participation' (Gourlay)

- the medicalisation of shyness
- vilification of students who do not
conform ('social loafers', 'lurkers',
'grade grubbers', 'feral learners')
- assuming that talking = learning
- problematising lack of participation
in class as a 'cultural' difference (eg Chinese
'I feel completely free in this course. I could come in late and leave early. I could talk or be silent. I got to know a number of the students rather well. I was treated like a mature adult. I felt no pressure from you. I didn't have to please you. I didn't have to believe you. It was all up to me.'

A student's statement following completion of a student-centered course, (Rogers, 1951:395)
Whatever happened to 'student-centredness'?
The cost of participative performativity

'The attentive pupil who wishes to be attentive,
his eyes riveted on the teacher, his ears open wide, so exhausts himself in playing the attentive role that he ends up no longer hearing anything.'

Sartre (1957:60)
* Demonstrates a loss of trust
- attendance registers, anti-plagiarism software, etc

* Distorts patterns of behaviour
- attendance patterns, class contribution grading

* Makes non-audited elements invisible
- listening rather than speaking, note taking, 'quiet' group members, etc

* Punishes non-compliance
- lower grades for shyness, preferences to learn as an individual, failure to confess/emote, etc, convert cultural capital through self-promotion, etc
The mirror effect of student performativity

Student engagement strategies are coercive and authoritarian in demanding that students comply with three forms of performativity - bodily, participative and emotional. These behavioral demands distort behaviour by dictating patterns of compliance that is converting learning from a private space into a public performance denying students a freedom to learn in their own way.

'A technology, a culture, and a mode of
regulation that employs judgements,
comparisons, and displays as means of
incentive, control, attrition and change -
based on rewards and sanctions (both material
and symbolic)'
Ball (2003:216)
my argument is that these forces now apply as much to STUDENTS as academics
'Students should be rewarded for their time and effort' (McCormick & Kinzie, 2014:14)
Students who attend are more likely to complete; absentees might be 'at risk', etc
Class contribution grades now commonplace (5-20% for u/gs in UK HEI - Ni Raghallaigh & Cunniffe, 2013)

'Passivity is the enemy of growth' (McCormick & Kinzie, 2014:1)

Group work and group grading reflects the 'real world' (Kuh, 2008)
Reflective diaries authentically reveal how a student's thinking has been 'transformed' (Wood, 2013)

Experiential learning as an effective means of developing students' 'emotions and empathy' (Chan, 2012)
Some justifications:
* Global citizenship
* Reflective diaries
* gap year tourism
* 'Community' contributions
Some justifications:
'Global citizenship...enables students to see themselves as members of global as well as local communities' (HKU, 2012)
Some inconvenient truths: 1
* More than half of students skip classes because they do not regard them as value for time (HEPI, 2013)

* Many students miss lectures because they have so many assignments to do (Harland et al, 2014)

* Attending a class is an 'academic non achievement' (Sadler, 2010)

* Attendance Does NOT necessarily = Engagement
Some inconvenient truths: 2
Some inconvenient truths: 3
* Students frequently self-censor when asked to discuss value-based concepts (Hyde & Ruth, 2012)

* Some students find reflective diaries 'an invasion of privacy' (Wood, 2013:5) and invent stories to give the desired effect and protect themselves (Nesi, 2008)

* it promotes the commodification of 'doing good'. Cultural capital (eg of gap year tourism) is converted into economic capital in gaining the edge in the graduate jobs market. (Heath, 2007)

Punctuality is an important 'work-related skill' (eg University of Leeds, 2011)
Macfarlane, B. (2016) Freedom to Learn. NY & London: Routledge

Macfarlane, B. (2016) The performative turn in the assessment of student learning: a rights perspective, Teaching in Higher Education, in ifirst (open access)

Macfarlane, B. (2015) Student performativity in higher education: converting learning as a private space into a public performance, Higher Education Research & Development, 34:2, 338-350. (open access)

Macfarlane, B. (2013) The surveillance of learning: a critical analysis of university attendance policies, Higher Education Quarterly, 67:4, 358-373.

Thank you! Questions? Comments?
'if students are free, they should be free to learn passively as well as to initiate their own learning' (1951:134)

Rogers quotes the following approvingly:
'No penalty will be attached to missing some or all of the classes. As a matter of fact, students are encouraged to miss a class when they feel that the activity in which they are engaged is of greater psychological significance than attending a class session' (1969:37)

'you can trust the student (1951:427)
Student engagement claims to be
'student-centred'. But is it?

The rise of 'student engagement'

National Student Engagement Survey - US, 2000
Now in Australia, Canada, Korea, China, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK

UK 'Engagement survey' since 2013 (32 institutions)
student engagement: 3 dimensions

Affective - 'interest, enthusiasm, belonging'
Behaviour - 'time and effort, interaction, participation'
Cognition - 'learning outcomes and development of students'

Kahu (2013)
* the geneaalogy of confession demands that students make visible their experiences and problems (Fejes & Dahlstedt, 2013)

Hogeschool van Amsterdam
11 July, 2016
Why higher education is 'special'
* Its a voluntary activity

* Students participate as adults
(in vast majority of systems)

* It involves the critical evaluation of knowledge claims
My argument
Student performativity
BODILY performativity
PARTICIPATIVE performativity
EMOTIONAL performativity
A definition

Student engagement suggests positive involvement in programmes through active participation and interaction at a class level. Often underpinning this assertion is that any activities that get students more involved are a positive step towards improving the quality of student learning.

Evans, Muijs and Tomlinson (2016:10)
Bruce Macfarlane
Critical perspectives: a summary
In addition to performativity...
Full transcript