Engagement comes from respect

Following on from the recent post on currencies, there is a question on the tip of the tongue of many academics at the moment as many departments across the University tackle the dilemma of the summative load by reducing the number of summative tasks per 20 credit module from two to one and introducing a more formative driven approach. This move directly challenges the dependency that many students and their teachers have on being mark-driven and, instead, turning to formative strategies that develop curiosity and deeper engagement in their courses.

Sylvia Ashton and Rachel Stone address this early on in their new book on creative teaching while addressing the question of how to engage students in an active learning paradigm. They say,

Don’t assume that students will be happy to carry out an activity without a clear rationale for doing so. Make links to assessments, employability, other parts of the module/course and research evidence that promotes the use and benefits of active learning. This links with the principles of ‘andragogy’ (Knowles, 1980), where adult learners need to know why they are learning something. – (p.6)

In a student-centred and active learning space, the teacher needs to be clear about their role and position in the room and often this is to simply respect and respond to the diverse needs of the students. This can amount to a shift in teacher attitude from ‘the students should understand me’ to checking ‘do the students understand why I have proposed this activity and why it is in their interest to engage with it?’


Ashton, S. & Stone, R. (2018). An A-Z of creative teaching in higher education. London: Sage Publications

Knowles, M. (1980). The modern practice of adult education : From pedagogy to andragogy (Rev. and updated ed.). Chicago: Follett Pub.

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