Critiques of Student Engagement
- First Online:
Student engagement initiatives at the national, institutional and classroom level have emerged against a backdrop of rising participation rates and the marketisation of higher education. This context has informed the development of a literature that is heavily influenced by cause-effect framing and a focus on effectiveness. However, in recent years an alternative, critical literature has emerged that challenges some of the assumptions of the student engagement movement on the grounds of student rights and freedoms as learners. This review article identifies the following six critiques of student engagement based on an analysis of the literature and arguments stemming from analyses of the effects of neoliberalism, namely performativity, marketing, infantilisation, surveillance, gamification and opposition. It is concluded that at a policy and institutional governance level, there is a need to shift the emphasis from what and how questions concerning student engagement to consider its broader political, economic and ethical implications as a means of challenging the prevailing policy narrative.
Keywordsstudent engagement neoliberalism performativity marketing infantilisation surveillance gamification opposition
- Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) (2008) Attracting, engaging and retaining: New conversations about learning. Australasian student engagement report, Camberwell, VIC: ACER.Google Scholar
- Ashwin, P. and McVitty, D. (2015) ‘The Meanings of Student Engagement: Implications for Policies and Practices’, in A. Curaj, L. Matei, R. Pricopie, J. Salmi and P. Scott (eds.) The European higher education area: between critical reflections and future policies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 343–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Brown, R. and Carasso, H. (2013) Everything for Sale?: The Marketisation of UK Higher Education, New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Coates, H. and McCormick, A.C. (eds.) (2014) Engaging University Students: International Insights from System-Wide Studies, Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
- Collini, S. (2012) What are Universities for?, London: Penguin.Google Scholar
- Dawson, S. (2006) ‘The impact of institutional surveillance technologies on student behaviour’, Surveillance & Society 4(1/2): 69–84.Google Scholar
- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) (2015) Fulfilling Our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, London: DBIS.Google Scholar
- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) (2016) Higher Education: Success as a Knowledge Economy – White Paper, London: DBIS.Google Scholar
- Ecclestone, K. and Hayes, D. (2009) The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education, New York and Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Edmond, N. and Berry, J. (2014) ‘Discourses of ‘equivalence’ in HE and notions of student engagement: resisting the neoliberal university’, Student Engagement and Experience Journal, doi:10.7190/seej.v3i2.90.
- Evans, C., Muijs, D. and Tomlinson, M. (2015) Engaged Student Learning: High-Impact Strategies to Enhance Student Achievement, York: Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
- Fejes, A. and Dahlstedt, M. (2013) The Confessing Society: Foucault, Confession and Practices of Lifelong Learning, Oxford and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punishment, London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
- Furedi, F. (2004) Therapy culture: Creating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Gilmore, S. and Anderson, V. (2016) ‘The emotional turn in higher education: a psychoanalytic contribution’, Teaching in Higher Education, doi:10.1080/13562517.2016.1183618.
- Giroux, H.A. (2014) Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education, Chicago, IL: Haymarket BooksGoogle Scholar
- Hammersley, M. (2007) ‘Philosophy’s Contribution to Social Science Research on Education’, in D. Bridges and R. Smith (eds.) Philosophy, Methodology and Educational Research, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 251–264.Google Scholar
- Kuh, G.D., Kinzie, J., Buckley, J.A., Bridges, B.K. and Hayek, J.C. (2006). What Matters to Student Success: A Review of the Literature. Commissioned report for the national symposium on postsecondary student success: Spearheading a dialog on student success. Washington, DC: National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC).Google Scholar
- Kuh, G.D. (2008) High-Impact Educational Practices: What They Are, Who Has Access To Them, and Why They Matter, Report from the American Association for Colleges and Universities.Google Scholar
- Lasch, C. (1979) The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in the Age of Diminishing Expectations, London and New York: Norton Press.Google Scholar
- Lester, D. (2013) A Review of the Student Engagement Literature, Focus on Colleges, Universities and Schools 7(1): 1–13.Google Scholar
- Lucas, L. (2006) The Research Game in Academic Life, Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.Google Scholar
- Macfarlane, B. (2016a) ‘The performative turn in the assessment of student learning: a rights perspective’, Teaching in Higher Education doi:10.1080/13562517.2016.1183623.
- Macfarlane, B. (2016b) Freedom to Learn: The Threat to Student Academic Freedom and Why It Needs to be Reclaimed, New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Maringe, F. and Gibbs, P. (2009) Marketing Higher Education. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
- McCormick, A.C. and Kinzie, J. (2014) ‘Refocusing the Quality Discourse: The United States National Survey of Student Engagement’, in H. Coates and A.C. McCormick (eds.) Engaging University Students: International Insights from System-Wide Studies, Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 13–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Nonnecke, B. and Preece, (2000) Lurker Demographics: Counting the Silent. In: T. Turner, G. Szwillus, M. Czerwinski, F. Peterno and S. Pemberton, Steven (eds.) Proceedings of the ACM CHI 2000 Human Factors in Computing Systems Conference; 1–6 April, The Hague, The Netherlands. New York: ACM, pp. 73–80.Google Scholar
- Oblinger, D.G. (2012) ‘Let’s talk analytics’, EDUCAUSE Review July/August: 10–13, http://er.educause.edu/articles/2012/7/lets-talk–analytics, accessed 29 November 2016.
- Rogers, C. (1969) Freedom to Learn: A View of What Education Might Become, Columbus, Ohio: Merrill Publishing.Google Scholar
- Rose, N. (1990) Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self, London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Trowler, V. (2010) Student Engagement Literature Review, York: The Higher Education Academy.Google Scholar
- Zepke, N. and Leach, L. (2010). Improving student engagement in post-compulsory education: A synthesis of research literature. A report prepared for the Teaching and Learning Research Initiative, Wellington. http://tlri.org.nz/sites/default/files/projects/9261-Literature-review.pdf, accessed 12 August 2016.