Higher education research has increasingly identified the significance of student engagement in relation to their academic success. ‘Real life’ experiences in courses enhance both meaning and motivation in study, and generated a new form of scholarship around public engagement. The co-lab presents and explores experiences across the university.
The last decade has seen the emergence of a new scholarship of engagement (Barker, 2004). However this movement has been criticised by Zepke and Leach (2010) as tending to be overly student focussed and lacking social context. There are advantages to considering ‘engagement’ from a broader perspective to include not only students, but also the wider community that Universities serve. Community engagement in teaching and learning can offer students rich chances to explore their learning and to challenge themselves in ‘reality’. Opportunities to negotiate encounters in environments that are changing and contested, enhances student motivation, scholarship and employability skills development.
By creating sustainable partnerships with the communities within which universities are located, barriers between the University and the populations around them can be broken down bringing reciprocal benefits to both arenas. Despite the advantages on offer and even staff enthusiasm for such working, it has been shown that support for academics is weak (NCCPE website).
The co-lab would offer participants a chance to see how different areas of the university interpret the opportunities and challenges of working with student engagement and the public in creating innovative and realistic teaching and learning opportunities. Contributors will share their experiences of engagement of various types, how this has developed their practice and teaching, and evaluating the impact(s) on student engagement and attainment. Participants will have opportunities for reflection and the session will be relevant to a wide number of disciplines regarding the purposes that public engagement can be used for and facilitated.
The workshop is hoped to facilitate a special interest group in public engagement with a view to SHU becoming a member of the NCCPE Public Engagement Network, supporting development and scholarship across the University relating to this kind of work.