Effective student engagement and partnership depends on an institution and its student body having a shared understanding of what these terms mean and an agreed approach for developing them.
sparqs' Student Engagement Analysis Workshop is an approach that can help with these questions and more.
Originally developed for our international consultancy work, the Student Engagement Analysis Workshop has value in introducing student engagement, encouraging reflection on approaches and tools, and creating actions.
We have delivered the workshop in a number of countries, including in Ireland where our work with the National Student Engagement Programme (NStEP) involved working in seventeen institutions during our three years of consultancy support to NStEP between 2016 and 2019.
Thanks to NStEP’s support in developing and refining the workshop, we sought to pilot it in Scotland and this was done in Spring 2019 at Glasgow School of Art (GSA) and North East Scotland College (NESCol).
The Student Engagement Analysis Workshop has five aims:
- Introduce sparqs and its work.
- Discuss what student engagement and student partnership means.
- Explore what student engagement looks like in your institution.
- Identify priorities and actions for you and your institution in student engagement.
- Inform national approaches to student engagement.
It takes around five hours, and involves between 25 and 40 staff and student reps from across different roles that relate to the learning experience – including teaching, support, quality and management roles, course reps, and staff and officers from the students’ association. Participants form up to six groups, each containing a balance of different roles.
There are three core exercises in the workshop:
- Exploring partnership – An introductory discussion that explores the idea of students as individual partners of their institution and the students’ association as an organisational partner.
- Where are we now? – A card sort exercise where participants are asked to reflect on a set of statements relating to different tools and approaches of student engagement.
- Your priorities – Using the results of the card sort, groups develop a number of short action plans relating to different aspects of developing student engagement.
In both pilot institutions, significant developments have come out of the workshop’s results. In June 2020, sparqs presented with NESCol at the online College Expo as well as jointly with GSA in Autumn 2020 at the online International Enhancement Themes Conference, to explain the methodology and share the outcomes from each institution’s perspective. Individuals from these two institutions have provided testimonials about the workshop’s value and impact:
“The session helped us to start thinking about what kinds of areas might need development in order to strengthen the way that students can shape their learning experience at GSA, and created a good environment for staff and students to work productively to have these conversations.”
Harry Gould, President, Glasgow School of Art SA 2018-19
“The day flew past. We all have very diverse opinions on what engagement is but the workshop gave us a safe space to focus our discussions on where we are with engagement now and where we want to take it. A thoroughly absorbing and thought-provoking day with staff and students working in true partnership.”
Susan Betty, Director of Learning, North East Scotland College
How can you use the workshop?
This workshop is designed for institutions and students’ associations who want to take a fresh look at their student engagement activity and identify new priorities as part of our ongoing work with the Scottish sector. It can also form a part of our international consultancy beyond Scotland.
We are happy to work with institutions to prepare for and deliver the workshop, and then provide a write up of the day that includes all the data from group exercises and our analysis of possible next steps. We can also work with institutions on the actions and outcomes identified by the workshop, forming part of our continuing institutional support and development.
The workshop might be particularly helpful to institutions who are:
- Creating or redeveloping a student engagement strategy, Student Partnership Agreement or similar policy document for student engagement.
- Preparing for institutional review or responding to actions from reviews relating to student engagement.
- Seeking to test or benchmark their student engagement activities and processes.
- Keen to explore and develop understandings of partnership across the institution.
If you’d like to discuss this further, or invite sparqs to visit to explain more, please get in touch with your key contact on the sparqs team or Senior Development Consultant, Simon Varwell.